The usefulness of height and weight charts

November 12, 2012

The usefulness of height and weight charts

Height and weight charts can be an excellent guide, but should not be used for elderly people!

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for all of us, the health risks associated with obesity are now well known and for women over the age of sixty the maintenance of a healthy weight is especially important. However, the standard height and weight charts are not usually accurate for seniors. Recent studies seem to indicate that elderly women who are slightly overweight may be no more at risk of developing weight related conditions than their peers who are the so-called ‘ideal’ weight.

Body mass index

The BMI (body mass index) scale used to determine whether someone’s weight is appropriate for their height is separated into four categories –

  • Underweight – a BMI of under 18.5

  • Normal – 18.5 – 24.9 is a normal BMI

  • Overweight – 25 – 29.9 BMI

  • Obese – 30 and above

However the figures from these height and weight charts are thought to be inaccurate for older women. The recommended BMI for women over sixty years of age is between 25 and 27, normally classed as overweight; – this is in order to offer some protection to women from diseases such as osteoporosis.

The example given indicates that a woman who is under 60 years of age and who is 5’ 4″ tall should weigh between 108 and 145 pounds. However, a woman of similar height who is over 60 years of age and weighs 158 pounds (giving a BMI of 27.1) would still be considered to be at a healthy weight. Clearly the usual height and weight charts should be disregarded for women over the age of sixty, this is largely due to the lack of consideration given to age when these charts were developed.

Use an alternative

In order to determine the healthy weight of older women an alternative to the usual height and weight charts is used. For individuals over the age of 75, it has been discovered that using a waist-to-hip ratio provides a better indicator of any potential health risks associated with excess weight than the use of height and weight charts to determine a BMI reading.

Scientists have determined that height and weight charts for BMI levels generally overestimate the incidence of illness related to excess weight in the elderly. They have, however, established that a waist-hip measurement of greater than 8 in women over the age of 75 puts them at increased risk of heart related death.

Talk to your medical practitioner

In order to determine the ideal weight for your height it is essential to talk to your medical practitioner – whatever your age. BMI guidelines, based on height and weight charts, are too inflexible for older individuals as they do not differentiate between muscle and fat, nor do these height and weight charts take age into consideration.

The importance of a healthy, well balanced diet and moderate exercise should never be underestimated when seeking to maintain a healthy weight that is both age and height appropriate. For the older patient it is especially important to avoid bad dietary habits which may have a negative impact on overall health and the immune system.


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