Body Mass Index (BMI) is an indicator of body density as determined by the relationship of body weight to body height, measured as weight (kg)/height squared (m2). BMI correlates with body fat or adipose tissue and is used to identify normal and below or above normal weight. Their relationship varies with age and gender. For adults, BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight; 18.5-24.9 is normal; 25.0-29.9 is overweight; while 30.0 and above is considered as obese.
|Category||BMI (kg/m² )|
|Severely underweight range||15-15.9|
|Healthy weight range||18.5-29.9|
Being underweight is typically associated with a weakened immune system, osteoporosis, anemia, female infertility and palpitations. An underweight population has been a challenge in Thailand for over two decades. Similar to many other Asian countries, Thailand has experienced rapid and continuous economic growth, with improved basic social services and living conditions to its general population. The prevalence of underweight in preschool children in Thailand, for example, has declined from 51% in 1980 to below 10% in 2006.
The prevalence of overweight individuals (above the age of 15) or BMI more than or equal to 25 kg/m2 in Thailand has doubled in the past two decades. Data from National Health examination surveys (NHES) have shown an increase from 13.0% in men and 23.2% in women in 1991 to 32.9% and 41.8% in 2014 respectively.
Being overweight or being obese poses significant health risks in the population. Adverse metabolic effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance can occur in overweight and obese individuals. Risks of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes mellitus increase steadily with increasing BMI. Raised BMI also increases the risk of cancer of the breast, colon, prostate, endometrium, kidney and gallbladder.
High levels of overweight people and obese people are also consistently associated with increased healthcare costs. Based on estimates of the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the UK and the US, the median increase in mean total annual healthcare costs were 12% for overweight and 36% for obese individuals compared to individuals at a healthy weight. There was also evidence of progressive increases in annual healthcare costs with increasing severity of obesity. The percentage increases were greatest for medications, followed by inpatient care, and then ambulatory care. In women, the percentage increases in costs associated with obesity were higher than men.
Overweight and obesity is preventable and reversible, with the main treatment involved healthy diet, augmented by physical exercise. A healthy diet should be balanced in macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Indulging in healthy foods that are not only delicious but can also boost your energy can prep you to be involved in the exercise. Regular physical exercise enhances the efficiency of diet through an increase in the satiety or fullness from the meal and is useful for maintaining diet-induced weight loss. Playing tennis in Bangkok or walking in the park, for example, is one of many ways to turn regular exercise into an exciting activity for you to participate in.
Adopting a healthy diet and routine physical activity will enable you to lower your BMI. Although a high BMI does not automatically mean you will suffer from a health condition, the risk is significantly higher with high BMI. As your health insurance provider is committed to financially supporting your health condition, BMI will often affect your health insurance premiums. A normal and healthy BMI versus a high BMI can mean up to 50% loading on monthly premiums or in some rare cases it may even see your medical insurance application rejected.
Risk assessment is usually done when you apply for health insurance coverage. Your BMI score, as well as other risk factors, are taken into considerations. Doctors will perform more tests to determine if a high BMI is a health risk for the individual. A high BMI but low body fat percentage can be the case among athletes with bulky muscle mass. While low BMI among the elderly may indicate higher health risk as it’s associated with fragility.
Most importantly, understand your insurance options and factors affecting it. Make sure you declare your medical conditions and ask the right questions to ensure you understand the coverage before you buy. Most private health insurance policies are designed to cover new medical conditions that occur after your insurance policy goes into effect. While pre-existing conditions are exempted from coverage. Learn more about how to get the best health insurance in Thailand with our Ultimate Guide. Contact our consultants today to get a quote for our comprehensive health insurance.