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Disease Prevention

Weight-Related Vital Sign Goes Unnoticed and Unmentioned

Do you know your BMI? If not, you're not alone. Research indicates most Americans have never heard of Body Mass Index (BMI), the medically accepted measure of weight-related health risk, and physicians are doing little to educate their patients about it, according to two surveys conducted by Yankelovitch Partners.

"This research shows how much work needs to be done to get the message out to the public and within the medical profession that BMI is a crucial indicator. BMI is a vital sign as important as a person's cholesterol and blood pressure," said cardiologist Dr. James M. Rippe, an authority on cardiology, fitness, and weight loss and associate professor of medicine (cardiology) at Tufts University School of Medicine. "But while it shows us the magnitude of the problem, these findings also demonstrate the great opportunity to enhance public health by raising awareness of BMI."

A measure of weight for height, BMI is significantly correlated with total body fat content, and therefore an effective measure of excess weight, as well as the risk of weight-related health problems.

Some key findings of the survey include:

  • Three out of five (60 percent) American adults surveyed said they have never heard of BMI.

  • Of those adults who have heard of BMI, the wide majority have never been screened (71 percent) and do not know their BMI (69 percent)

  • Three out of four American adults surveyed (75 percent) believe it's important to include a BMI screening in their routine doctor visits.

  • Three out of four (74 percent) physicians surveyed indicate that the incidence of being overweight among their patients has steadily increased during the last five years.

  • Four out of five (80 percent) physicians surveyed believe the rise in the incidence of being overweight among their patients is very serious.

  • Nine out of 10 (86 percent) physicians surveyed believe it is important to include BMI screening in a patient's regular checkup. However, only one in four (24 percent) calculate a patient's BMI as standard procedure.

  • Four out of five (84 percent) physicians surveyed said their patients have never requested BMI screening as part of their regular checkup.

  • Three out of five (57 percent) physicians surveyed believe people should know their BMI, regardless of whether they are overweight or not.

  • Four out of five (82 percent) physicians surveyed said more doctors should offer a BMI screening as part of regular checkups.

  • Three out of five (58 percent) physicians surveyed feel BMI should be established as a vital sign.

Source: Roche Pharmaceuticals.

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