Your Most Important Number

Are you able to look at a person and determine if they’re healthy? Can you simply size a person up and be able to determine if they’re going to die early; short of their average life expectancy? What if you could? Who would be able to benefit from such knowledge? The answers to these questions are yes, you can look at a person and determine if they’re likely to live a long and healthy life, and the insurance industry has been using this information for 70 years to make their companies profitable.

Back in the 1940’s, Metropolitan Life was looking for an accurate and easy way to determine who was likely to live a long and healthy life, and who was likely to die early, so that they could decide who to insure and who to turn away. They compiled decades of data, involving millions of people, and made an amazing discovery: People who were heavier for their height were far more likely to die early than those who were lighter. This information immediately changed how the world viewed obesity. It had long been assumed that heavy people were healthier because they obviously had access to more and better foods and their bodies were stronger because of it. Heavy people also had likely been able to avoid hard, back breaking labor that wore a body out, and most people thought this gave them a huge advantage in health over their physically active counterparts. Thin people were historically viewed as weak, frail and unhealthy, but Metropolitan Life’s data turned everything around!

Metropolitan Life’s data proved to be reliable for people of either sex and almost any height. Their death rate charts have been thoroughly reexamined, and the exact same rates have proven to hold true in the 70 years since. It is such an accurate indicator of health problems and premature death that almost every doctor in the land uses it. When you go in for virtually any type of doctor visit, your height and weight will be measured and those two values will be used to calculate a number called the Body Mass Index or BMI. Use this link to calculate your BMI. If your BMI is above 25, your doctor will almost certainly tell you to lose weight, because that is the point where longevity starts to noticeably diminish. If your BMI is above 30, you are considered obese and your chances of dying young increase greatly. These are the facts, plain and simple, and your doctor knows that having a BMI between 20 and 25 gives you the best chance of avoiding a whole list of potentially life threatening problems as you grow older.

We continue to live in a society however, that is deep in denial when it comes to BMI. We still tend to think of people with healthy BMI’s as being too thin. Maybe it’s because most of us are overweight; the healthy minority among us appear out of place. We become good at convincing ourselves that we really aren’t that overweight, even when we are, and we tend to dismiss BMI’s as nonsense. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say “If I had a BMI of 25, I’d be too thin!” Whatever the reason we have for telling people of a healthy body weight that they are too thin, the fact is they live longer than those of us who are overweight. Your doctor knows it, Metropolitan Life knows it, and now you know it too. What you choose to do with this information is up to you, but your decision will most likely be a factor in how long you actually live, and how much you enjoy the time you do have. Isn’t it about time you took your BMI seriously? I know I am!