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Doctors weigh children at routine checkups. They plot measurements on
a growth chart to see how your child compares physically
to other children of the same age. Doctors update the chart at each
routine exam to document your child's growth pattern.
and "obese" are terms sometimes used when referring to children
who weigh more than expected. Doctors use growth charts or the
body mass index (BMI) to measure a child's weight in
relation to his or her height. If your child is age 2 or older, find out his or her BMI with this
Interactive Tool: What Is Your Child's BMI?
If you have concerns that your child is
overweight or obese, ask your
doctor to review your child's growth charts and medical history with
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends using BMI to screen children ages 6 to 18 for obesity.1
Sometimes a child's BMI and weight can increase without a
child being at risk of having too much body fat. For instance, before and
during puberty it is normal for children to have a significant gain in weight
before they begin to grow in height. Also, children who are very muscular (such
as children who are very active in sports), may have a high BMI but have normal
or even lower-than-normal amounts of body fat.
If your child's BMI
and growth pattern suggest a weight problem, your doctor will give your child
an exam that looks for health problems that can cause weight gain. This may
include questions about
eating and physical activity habits. Routine checkups
for health problems will also be important over time.
The USPSTF recommends using BMI to find out which adults
are at risk from being overweight and
are age 20 or older, use the
Interactive Tool: Is Your BMI Increasing Your Health Risks? to check
your BMI when you know your height in feet and weight in
You can use BMI to decide whether your weight is dangerous to your health. If you
have a BMI of 30 or higher, your extra weight—as well as unhealthy eating patterns
and too little physical activity—may be putting your health in danger.
If you are Asian, your health may be at risk with a BMI of 27.5 or
Where you carry your body
fat may be as important as how many extra pounds you have. People who carry too
much fat around the middle, rather than around the hips, are more likely to
have health problems. In women, a
waist size of 35 in. (88 cm) or more raises the chance for disease. In men, a
waist size of 40 in. (101 cm) or more raises the chance for disease.4 In Asian people, health problems are seen with a smaller
waist size. In Asian women, a waist size of 32 in. (80 cm) or more raises the
chance for disease. In Asian men, a waist size of 36 in. (90 cm) or more raises
the chance for disease.3
information, see the topics Obesity, Weight Management, Healthy Eating, or Healthy
Eating for Children.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2010). Screening for obesity in children and adolescents. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspschobes.htm.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2012). Screening for and Management of Obesity in Adults. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf11/obeseadult/obesers.htm.
Purnell JQ (2011). Obesity. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 6, chap. 12. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National
Institutes of Health (2000). The Practical Guide: Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults (NIH Publication No. 00-4084). Available online:
Current as of:
March 12, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
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