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What Your BMI Says About Your Heart

When talking about healthy weight or body size, Body Mass Index (BMI) may come up in conversation. Body Mass Index is based on the ratio of weight to height to offer guidance on weight categories including underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese. These categories can help us determine the risks of certain health conditions – including heart problems.

Cardiologist checks patient's weight to determine BMI and related cardiovascular risk factors. Huntington Heart Center logo at top center.

BMI and Your Heart

The idea of BMI was created by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, a Belgian astronomer and mathematician, in the 19th century. The BMI formula (weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) was initially used as a quick and easy way to measure obesity. A person is considered obese when they have a BMI of or over 30kg/m2 and underweight if your BMI is below 18.5 kg/m2.

High BMI

If a person has excess weight or is obese, it puts extra strain on their heart. Fat builds up around the heart just as it does in other areas of the body, constricting the heart and making it harder to pump blood throughout the body. Fat also accumulates in the blood – high cholesterol can lead to narrowed arteries. Obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and heart disease. The modifiable risks of severe heart conditions can be mitigated by maintaining a healthy BMI through diet and exercise.


A threat less discussed is being under weight. If your BMI falls below 18.5 kg/m2, you are also at an increased risk for heart conditions. One study concluded that people in the underweight BMI category have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease than people in the normal BMI category. There have also been studies finding a higher risk of death after heart attack for those with a low BMI.

The Bottom Line

 You should aim to live a balanced lifestyle in order to maintain a healthy weight. As with most things, the BMI calculation has its flaws, and you should consult your doctor about what weight and lifestyle you should have. A healthy diet has benefits that expand beyond your heart health, to your overall well-being. Exercise also strengthens your heart muscle as it does the many of the other muscles in your body.

If you would like to talk to a cardiologist about how your BMI is related to your heart health, schedule an appointment with us today. Huntington Heart Center is dedicated to providing a patient centered experience for everyone that walks through the doors to help get them toward a healthier life.

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