Article at a Glance
• BMI is a calculation that can be used to determine whether or not a person is at a healthy weight.
• Charting your child’s BMI can help identify any potential weight problems early on.
Traditionally doctors have used weight and height to determine if a person is a healthy weight, but now doctors are also using BMI (body mass index).
BMI is used to help indicate how much body fat a person has. While it is not a perfect measurement of body fat, it does help doctors identify potential weight problems. This allows parents and doctors to help at-risk children make lifestyle changes early on. Children with high BMI measurements are at a higher risk for developing health problems like Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
BMI is used for both adults and children, but with children it is charted differently. For adults, doctors use a universal normal range when evaluating a BMI calculation. However for children, pediatricians plot a child’s BMI measurements on gender-specific growth charts since gender and age play such an important part in how much body fat is healthy for any particular child.
Because things like growth spurts or puberty can dramatically affect any one measurement, doctors generally don’t focus on only one measurement. Instead they analyze BMI patterns over time to determine if your child is developing normally.
Your doctor will also take your child’s body type into consideration. For example, a child with a large frame or a lot of muscle may have a high BMI, even if he or she does not have a lot of body fat.
With accurate height and weight measurements, you can use the BMI calculator at kidshealth.org to calculate your child’s BMI. However, the BMI measurement taken at your child’s doctor’s appointments will be much more precise.
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