December 9, 2023

Remember going to the doctor as a kid? The first thing they make you do is take your shoes off so they can know your height and weight. Now that you’re an adult, there’s not always that “Oh my god, you’ve grown up!” kind of thing. There’s a sticker at the end of every doctor’s appointment, but the topic of weight and height remains a core focus of your annual physical. (Here’s a reminder: You may not be a kid, but you should still have an annual checkup.)

Doctors use these measurements to determine your body mass index (BMI), a popular way of determining your fitness level.

Read on to learn more about BMI, how it’s used by the insurance industry, and some alternative measurements that can better gauge your overall health.

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What is BMI?

BMI is one of the health measures that insurance companies, medical professionals, and others use to gauge your overall health. The index was first used to estimate average body size in the 1830s, but was not adopted by the health-related and insurance industries until the 1970s.

Your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight by the square of your height in inches, multiplying by 703, and rounding up. (this Online BMI Calculator Do the hard work for you. ) If you are 5 feet 10 inches (70 inches) tall and weigh 160 pounds, your BMI is 23.

So, what does this tell you? BMI essentially tells you whether you weigh above, below or the same as other people of your height. As shown in the example above, a BMI of 23 falls right into the “normal weight” category.

Doctors have historically used BMI as an indicator of your overall health level, including your likelihood of developing health problems. According to reports, this is due to underlying problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, and even certain cancers. National Institutes of Health.

BMI is divided into four categories:

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
  • Overweight = 25–29.9
  • Obesity = BMI equal to or greater than 30

Is BMI a good measure of health?

While BMI is useful and has a long history, there are some criticisms. First, BMI doesn’t tell you how much fat or muscle you have.

For example, a recently drafted professional football player is 6 feet 0 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds. His BMI is 29.2 — technically “overweight.” But suffice it to say that this guy’s picture could be used as an illustration for “ripped” in the dictionary because most of his weight is muscle.

Conversely, many health professionals believe that waist size has a greater impact on health concerns than overall body weight. For example, research shows Compared with body weight, a larger waist circumference is more likely to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Another criticism is that while BMI is often used to estimate your overall fitness level, it doesn’t take into account other health information such as your activity level, body proportions, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, etc. A physical exam, whether it’s an annual exam or part of a life insurance application, will contain far more detailed health information than a BMI can provide.

Finally, BMI may ignore health risks for: certain races or nationalitiesAccording to the Harvard School of Public Health.

BMI Alternatives

Research suggests there may be other reliable ways to assess health risk, including the ratio of waist to hip measurements, or assessing waist size alone.

The greater the waist-to-hip ratio, the higher the risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Waist circumferences greater than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women were associated with higher health risks.

These measurements have proven to be far more accurate in determining health risks in overweight people. That’s because these surrogate measurements take into account factors related to an individual’s health, body size and weight distribution — not just height and weight.

BMI and Life Insurance

When you apply for life insurance, the insurance company will use every possible tool to gain a complete picture of your overall health in order to accurately assess the risk of insuring you.

These tools may include measuring your height and weight, testing your blood and urine, reviewing your health history (including prescriptions) and family medical history, and any risk factors such as smoking or substance abuse. BMI is only a small part of the overall picture, most of which is obtained through life insurance medical exams.

How Haven Living Can Help

At Haven Life, you have two options when obtaining a term life insurance policy. The first is a safe harbor term. This is our affordable term life insurance product and most applicants are required to take a life insurance medical exam. (Some may be approved right away, though policy issuance and death benefit payments depend on the veracity of your answers.)

You can get a free online quote here to get started. PLEASE NOTE: The safe haven period can be useful while you are still alive. Eligible Haven Term policyholders can enjoy Haven Life Plus, an additional rider that includes a wide range of health and wellness services (including fitness apps), many of which are low-cost or free.

We also offer Haven Simple — a 100% no medical exam policy. Again, you need to be honest in the application process. While a medical exam isn’t required, it means your life insurance coverage will be limited to $1 million, and there are some restrictions on term length and availability in some states. You can start by getting a quote.

our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-focused life insurance organization backed and wholly owned by MassMutual. We believe that decisions about life insurance, personal finances and overall health can be simple.

our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-focused life insurance organization backed and wholly owned by MassMutual. We believe that decisions about life insurance, personal finances and overall health can be simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life less difficult if they are appropriate for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to provide tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide tax, legal or investment advice and should not be relied upon. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal advisors.

our disclosure

Haven Term is a term life insurance policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in some states, including North Carolina) issued by MassMutual, Springfield, MA 01111-0001, through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC Exclusively available. In New York State, the safe harbor deadline is DTC-NY 1017. In California, the safe harbor deadline is DTC-CA 042017. Simplified Safe Harbor Term is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in some states (including North Carolina)) issued by CM Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and add-on form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our agency license number is OK71922 in California and 100139527 in Arkansas.

MassMutual is rated A++ (Superior; Top Category 15) by AM Best Company. This rating is as of April 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual Financial Services has received varying ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is part of a Haven Term policy that provides additional services and benefits for free or at a discounted price. This rider is not available in every state and may change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for providing benefits and services provided by third party vendors (partners) under Plus Rider. For more information on Haven Life Plus, visit:

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