- Obesity is a qualifying condition for an early COVID-19 vaccine in at least 18 states.
- The threshold for obesity is determined by body mass index (BMI) — anyone with a BMI over 30.
- Using a simple formula, you can calculate it yourself at home.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Obesity, or having a body mass index (BMI) over 30, is now a qualifying condition for early access to a COVID-19 vaccine in at least 18 states, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Whether your BMI is in the obesity range, or it counts as “normal,” underweight, or overweight can play a role in your risk of complications from COVID-19.
You can find out if you fall into any of these categories by calculating your own BMI. Here’s how.
How to determine your BMI
Your BMI is determined by body weight relative to height.
To find yours: take your weight in pounds, divide it by your height in inches twice, and multiply that total by 703.
For instance, if you are 5’7″ (or, 67 inches) tall, and weigh 180 pounds, that’s: 180 ÷ (67 x 2) x 703 = 28.18.
That BMI would place you in the overweight category.
You can also use a free online calculator such as the one at the CDC website.
How to read your BMI measurement
Having a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered “normal” weight.
A BMI of 18.5 or below is considered underweight.
Between 25 and 29.9 is considered to be overweight.
A BMI of 30 and above is considered having obesity, and 40+ is categorized as having severe obesity.
What does BMI mean for COVID-19?
There’s good evidence that having obesity can be a risk factor for severe COVID-19 and complications of the disease. Severe obesity is linked to greater risk.
On the other end of the scale, though, being underweight can be just as risky. Data show that underweight COVID-19 patients are up to 20% more likely to be hospitalized than their normal-weight peers, and twice as likely to die as patients with obesity.
Research suggests that people with the lowest risk of coronavirus complications are on the higher end of the normal BMI range, or slightly overweight.
However, BMI isn’t always an accurate measure of health. Higher BMI is often linked to weight stigma, which can lead to worse health outcomes. Other factors like age and underlying health conditions play a major role in COVID-19 risk, too, so don’t rely solely on BMI to assess your risk.
“On an individual level, BMI may not be a perfect indicator of someone’s health risk. It’s one of several measurements that we have to assess health risks,” Dr. W. Scott Butsch, director of obesity medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, previously told Insider.
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