The real health risks of being overweight
When do your love handles become a serious health concern? By Lucy Bulmer
More than half of women in the UK are overweight, according to the latest Government statistics, but when do your love handles turn into a serious health concern? Prima magazine investigates the serious health risks you face when you are 1, 3 and 5 stones overweight. Click on the links below to read the facts and scroll down to see if you have a healthy BMI and to see the dangers of being underweight...
What is a healthy BMI?
BMI is the measure used by health professionals to decide whether your weight is reasonable for your height.
How is it worked out?
It's calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. So if you're 1.62m (5ft 4in) and 11st 4lb (71.7kg), that's 1.62 x 1.62 = 2.62, then 71.7 ÷ 2.62 = 27.36. You're classed as being a healthy weight if you're in the range 18.5 to 24.9. Click here for an easy-to-use online calculator from the NHS
What does it mean?
If you're an average British woman of 5ft 4in, the heaviest you can healthily be is 10st 4lb. Add on 1st and you have a BMI of 27.1, right in the middle of the overweight range, which is where a third of UK women currently are.
What if you're underweight?
Being too thin can be even worse for your health than being slightly overweight. If your BMI is less than 18.5, you're in the official category of underweight. A woman of 5ft 4in is considered underweight at 71⁄2st - positively hefty by some celebrity standards. But doctors say that at this size you're probably not taking in enough nutrients, which affects your body's immune system, making it more likely you'll catch a cold, ‘flu and other infections.
It can put you at risk of more serious illness, too - without enough vitamin D, your body won't be able to metabolise calcium, which can lead to rickets, and a lack of vitamin C could mean scurvy. If you don't get enough iron, you may develop anaemia, which can cause heart palpitations and dizziness or fainting. Osteoporosis (brittle bone disease), which makes fractures more likely, is also a common symptom of being underweight, as are low muscle mass, irregular periods or periods stopping altogether, because your body thinks you're starving and closes down your reproductive system. Being seriously underweight can lead to weakness and lack of energy, feeling cold all the time, yellowish skin and fine hair growing all over the body and face. When you regain a healthy weight, your periods - and your fertility - will return, but it can take a while for them to settle back into a natural rhythm.