A Number With The Power To Save Your Life

In a world of super-sizing and excessive indulgence, the term “Body Mass Index” can sound like a real bummer. But this simple number is much clearer than a crystal ball when it comes to seeing your future.

Your body mass index is easy to compute; take your weight and divide it by your height (in inches) squared, then multiply that number by 703. Remember that 1 foot = 12 inches. Let’s say that you are 5 foot 9 and weigh 165 pounds. Your BMI would be 165 divided by 69 x 69 (4761) x 703, equaling 24.4.
Ideally, we determine a normal body mass index at 25. Anything over 25 is labeled as overweight and anything over 30 is classified as obese. If your body mass index is over 25, you are not alone. Two out of every three Americans is labeled overweight. The scary thing is that studies have proven that for every five points you accrue above 25, you could be shortening your life by two years. Obesity can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and it is the number one leading factor when it comes to contracting chronic illnesses, such as heart attacks, sleep apnea, strokes, certain cancers and diabetes. A six foot, 300 pound man could be shortening his life span by 8-10 years if he does not change his habits.

John is the perfect example of this. A patient of mine for many years, I watched as he packed on the excess weight, eventually carrying many more pounds than he should. As expected, with the excess weight came the arrival of sleep apnea, swollen legs, high cholesterol, and continuous fatigue preventing him from completing everyday activities. John identified the issue and put prevention first. How? We started with nutritional counseling. This is not dieting; this is not deprivation; it’s healthy eating, It involves figuring out delicious heart-smart substitutions for his favorite foods and correcting portion sizes. Then, we taught him simple, easy steps to increase his everyday activity—for example, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the end of the lot. John hates exercise, but by following these tips, he was getting fit without even knowing it.

Just by making simple changes in his diet and his life, John lost 50 pounds over an eight-month period. His sleep apnea improved significantly, meaning better sleeping patterns and less fatigue. His cholesterol went down, meaning no more expensive medications. His legs are no longer swollen and he feels as though he can accomplish so much more in a day than ever before. Naturally, both he and his wife are overjoyed at the difference in his quality of life.

The result is wonderful, but not at all surprising. I recently returned from a conference on personalized preventative healthcare presented by the National Institutes of Health. Through many extensive studies, the NIH concluded that while genetics will always play a role in the onset of chronic illness, obesity plays a huge factor as well. Furthermore, they have found that exercise and healthy eating have proven to be just as effective as expensive medications, if not more so, in battling diseases such as diabetes. While those who have stock in the pharmaceutical companies may not find this news so enlightening, it certainly reinforces those who invest in their own healthy lifestyles.

Try it for yourself. Start by cutting out sugary sodas and lattes, many of which can pack 200 calories or more on your daily diet. Also, walk an extra 500 steps a day. Just by following these two tips daily, you should see a positive result in a matter of weeks.

My practice, Prevention First Healthcare, offers exercise and nutritional counseling to all of our patients. We also provide healthy treats, including whole grain muffins and dark chocolate, and information on how to shop heart-healthy. By fostering healthy lifestyles, we have found that people look at healthcare more as a pleasure and not a chore. Our practice is geared around proactive care to ensure a longer, better life, all for less than your average monthly cable bill. It may sound too good to be true, but I can assure you that John and many of our other patients can attest to the power of putting prevention first.