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10 Diet Tips Doctors Want You to Hear

Weight vs. BMI

There seem to be so many formulas with which to calculate fitness levels, but what do doctors suggest focusing on: weight or body mass index (BMI)?

At your annual health checkup, you'll probably expect your doctor to comment on your weight, whether it's in the recommended range or not. He or she may also whip out a BMI chart that shows what proportion of your body is comprised of fat. Cornelius Flowers, M.D., a cardiologist who has treated thousands of patients in his 30 years of practicing medicine, says, "Most people have heard of BMI, but few know how to use it for practical results." Instead, Flowers suggests the technique of measuring central obesity, which correlates disproportionate waist size with the risk of having a heart attack or developing diabetes and hypertension. To determine your central obesity, compare your height to the largest circumference at your waist. This measurement should be no more than half your height; anything greater indicates high risk for metabolic syndrome, which includes heart and pancreatic diseases [sources: American Heart Association, Srinivasan, et al]. The central obesity measurement is more accurate in determining risks for people who seem to be in a normal weight range, but who may have a potbelly or an apple shape.