BMI Calculation for Kids

It is more difficult today than ever before for children to achieve a healthy BMI calculation. Childhood obesity is a problem of growing worldwide concern. The easy availability of processed foods high in sugar and lack of physical activity are just a couple of the reasons more children are obese now than ever before.

There is a variety of physical and psychological health consequences associated with a child who is obese or overweight. Being overweight increases a child's risk of obesity as an adult, as well as the risk of adult heart disease. It also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, which can be a forerunner to diabetes. In addition, overweight children have a higher risk of social and psychological problems including poor self-esteem and eating disorders. For this reason, it's important to diagnose childhood obesity and treat weight problems early before future complications can develop. One way of doing this is by measuring BMI, or body mass index.

What exactly is BMI and why is it important?
BMI is a standardized measure used to determine whether a child is overweight or obese. Many doctors perform BMI calculations on all children at their yearly visits to ensure they're within a healthy range. A formula can be used to do BMI calculations but it's simpler to use an online BMI calculator to determine your child's BMI. If you know your child's height and weight, you can plug the numbers into the calculator and get an instant BMI reading. Once you have the calculated BMI, it can be compared to values on a percentile chart for children of the same age. There's a separate percentile chart for boys and girls. Both age and gender have to be taken into account when determining a healthy BMI for your child.

Once you have these values, how can you tell if your child is overweight or obese? If your child's BMI is greater than the 95th percentile for children his age and sex, he would be considered overweight or obese. If between the 85th and 95th percentile, he would be considered at risk of being overweight. A healthy BMI is considered to be between the 5th percentile and the 85th percentile.

Although BMI calculations are useful for getting a rough idea of whether your child has a healthy BMI, it doesn't always give a completely accurate picture. If your child is athletic and carries a great deal of lean body mass, his BMI calculations may be falsely elevated. This is why it's important to contact your child's doctor for further testing and guidance if your child falls into the overweight or obese category. The American Academy of Pediatrics now encourages doctors to do regular BMI calculations on children when they arrive for their yearly well child checks. You may want to check with your child's pediatrician to get a record of past BMI readings and to discuss any concerns you may have about your child's weight. In addition, your doctor may also want to perform a series of blood tests to assess thyroid function, since the thyroid plays an important role in controlling weight. The doctor also will want to determine blood glucose and lipid levels, which can be abnormal in an overweight or obese child.

What to do if your child's BMI is too high
If your child doesn't have a healthy BMI, it's important to take action as soon as possible since early intervention can reduce the risk of later health complications such as diabetes and heart disease. Usually reaching a healthy BMI for a child is easier if the whole family becomes involved in eating a more balanced diet and becoming active. It can be helpful to seek out the services of a nutritionist who can determine calorie requirements based on your child's height, weight and build, and can recommend appropriate dietary changes. Making simple changes such as eliminating processed foods that are high in sugar and replacing them with whole grains, fruits and vegetables can go a long way toward helping your child reach a healthy BMI. The addition of small amounts of healthier food on a gradual basis can sometimes be more palatable to your child than an all-out effort to change his poor eating habits.

Of course, activity will play a critical role in maintaining a healthy BMI. Reassessing how much time is spent in front of the television or computer and replacing it with sports or outdoor family activities can help to burn excess calories and prime your child's metabolism to promote weight loss. Making these simple changes in lifestyle can often have an impact in the form of weight loss if carried out consistently.

Calculating BMI is important. Taking action to help your child achieve a healthy BMI can have positive long-term consequences in terms of both better health and a stronger self-esteem. 

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