BMI, or body mass index, carries a lot of weight in the health world. But what is it and why should you pay attention to it? Find out why BMI matters and how it can impact your life insurance rates.

What Is BMI?

On the surface, BMI may not seem too complicated. It’s essentially a metric that calculates your body fat based on your height and weight. There’s just the one BMI table for both men and women, so there’s no curve for gender or body type.

To calculate your BMI, use a basic online calculator or find your number on the standard BMI chart. You can even use a smartphone app to keep track of your BMI on the go.

Once you’ve got your number, see where you place on the BMI chart. Essentially, a BMI below 18.5 indicates that you’re underweight, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is normal, and a BMI between 25 and 29.9 suggests that you’re overweight. You fall into the obese category if your BMI is above 30.

Why Is BMI Important?

By now, you’re happy with where you fall on the BMI chart, are starting to think about making some lifestyle changes, or wondering if BMI is really all that significant. First, you should know that BMI is pretty important, whether you’re happy with your number or not. It offers a simple and straightforward gauge of your risk for some serious diseases, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Generally, numbers above the normal range are considered indicators of a risk level that’s higher than average. In fact, Health IQ, an athletic focused life insurance agency, has discovered that individuals with a BMI’s over 30 have a 200 percent higher risk of heart disease.

BMI isn’t the only indicator of your health, though. And in some cases, a high number doesn’t really mean you’re unhealthy. The BMI chart has been known to overestimate body fat for athletes and others who are particularly muscular. While these people would normally have to pay higher life insurance rates because of this, Health IQ takes this into consideration. They won’t base rates strictly on your BMI like some insurance companies.

What Other Metrics Can Gauge Your Health?

You should see your BMI as a starting point, you can also take further steps to find out if you’re really at risk of developing serious health conditions. For instance, you can measure your waist and your hips to determine if most of your extra weight is right in the middle. Men with a waist circumference of more than 40 inches tend to have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

If you have a BMI that’s higher than normal, take a minute to assess your risk factors, too. If you smoke, have high LDL cholesterol, have high blood pressure, have a family history of early heart disease, or have another common risk factors, you may want to take some steps to improve your health.

How BMI Can Affect Your Wallet

Still not convinced that BMI is important? In addition to offering a snapshot of your overall health, this metric can also affect your wallet. If you have a higher-than-normal BMI, your doctor might get on your case about getting healthy or even talk with you about taking expensive weight-loss drugs.

If you’re looking to protect your family, a high BMI could prove even more costly. Not only could you be at risk of developing some serious conditions, but a high BMI could also affect your life insurance rates. After all, your health status is a major component of your life insurance application. You’ll need to indicate your height and weight on your application, and in most cases, additional verification is necessary to confirm their accuracy.

Sure, BMI is just a number, but it can have a major impact on other important figures throughout your life. BMI can affect your life expectancy, which in turn affects your life insurance rate. Since people considered obese tend to have higher risk factors for serious conditions and shorter life expectancies, it follows that their life insurance rates are different from those for people in a normal health range and with fewer risk factors.

If you’re shopping for life insurance policies, you’ll notice that a higher BMI can mean a higher premium. Life insurance quotes can be twice as high for people considered obese versus people who fall within the normal range. In fact, if you rank anywhere outside of the normal range, you should be prepared to shell out a little extra, whether you’re underweight or overweight.

If you have a healthy BMI and you work hard to stay in shape, however, you deserve to enjoy lower life insurance rates. That’s why Health IQ offers special rates on life insurance for health-conscious consumers. After all, you’ll have a higher chance of living longer if you stay within a healthy BMI range.

Whether you want to ensure you’re in great shape or you’re more concerned with saving big, you’ll want to track your BMI. Since it can reflect your overall health and impact your spending, this is a metric you’ll want to take control of.