Rethinking BMI for Older Adults
The weight-height equation may be different as you age. Here’s what really matters instead.
If you’re over 65 or approaching that age and still watching your weight, new findings suggest you may be worrying about the wrong thing. It’s true that the obesity epidemic has exacted a serious toll on America’s health. But for older adults, maintaining muscle mass to ward off frailty—a condition called sarcopenia—is more important both to the length and quality of life than counting pounds. The popular Body Mass Index (BMI—see box), a calculation that combines weight and height, turns out not to be a very good predictor of health for older adults—for whom the “rules” about overweight may simply be different than for younger people.