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BMI Percentiles for Teens

Teen boy being weighedAs you grow, your body keeps changing. That's why every time you go for a checkup the nurse checks your weight and your height. She's measuring to see how much you've grown and may be using those numbers to figure out your body mass index or BMI.

BMI is one way to measure how much body fat you have. Doctors check BMI because weighing too much for your height can lead to health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

To find out your BMI, you need to know your age, gender, height, and weight. With this information, a doctor can look at a pediatric growth chart to find your BMI. You can also use an online teen BMI calculator . Teens need to use a pediatric BMI calculator, which is different than adults use, to get correct results.

Comparing Yourself to Other Teens

Teens' BMIs are a bit different from those of adults. With adults, BMIs are numbers. With kids and teens, BMIs are percentiles. Teenager BMI percentiles show how your weight compares to teens like you who are the same age and gender. For example, a teenage girl with a 75th percentile BMI is heavier than 75 out of 100 other girls her age. A healthy weight range is between the 5th and 84th percentiles.

Here's how teenager BMI percentiles break down:

  • Underweight: 0 to the 5th percentile
  • Healthy Weight: 5th percentile to the 85th percentile
  • Overweight: 85th percentile to the 95th percentile
  • Obese: 95th percentile to the 99th percentile

A high BMI can mean you weigh more than expected for your height -- one of the heavier teens your age. A low BMI can mean you weigh less than expected for your height -- one of the lighter teens your age. BMI percentiles are generally considered fairly accurate, especially with heavier teens. There are some cases when BMI percentiles can be misleading, however. Athletic teens, for example, may fall into the overweight category when they are actually muscular.

After your BMI is calculated, your doctor may follow up by asking questions about what you eat and how much you exercise. Knowing more will help your doctor figure out the next best step if you fall within an underweight, overweight, or obese BMI percentile.

A Healthy BMI

Remember that your body may still be growing and changing. So the BMI that you have now most likely won't be the BMI that you'll have your whole life. You may still be going through growth spurts, and your height and weight are likely to change. As your body changes, your BMI will change, too.

Don't go on a diet or stop eating food if you're worried that your BMI is too high. Talk with your doctor to find out if you need to make any changes because of your BMI. You should never make the decision to go on a diet or change your eating habits by yourself.

WebMD Medical Reference