For a long time, a person’s health has been mainly evaluated using their weight and body mass index. Dr. Maximilian Schubert, medical director of the VIVAMAYR Health Resort Altaussee, explains why this approach is only partially accurate and how to better assess a person’s health.
BMI and the search for explanations
If a measurement for determining a person’s health in a plausible, personalised manner existed, this would certainly make diagnostics and therapy considerably easier in general; however, there would still be a factor that was not taken into account: man’s individuality. While certain things apply to everyone, such as the fact that everyone’s fingernails and toenails are naturally colourless or similar to their skin colour, most aspects do not apply completely to every single person. After all, everybody’s individuality, like their fingerprints, is unique. As a result, no measurement can possibly be developed to do complete justice to everyone when it comes to measuring certain parameters. And this is also true for BMI – the body mass index.
This measured variable was invented by Belgian mathematician Adolphe Quetelet (1796 to 1874), who was driven by his quest to develop a mathematical description of “normal”. His formula, also known as the Quetelet index, compared the weight and height of an adult in relation to one another; yet it did not take into consideration the person’s body composition, gender or age. It was not until 1972 that American physiologist Ancel Keys came back to the formula, named it the “body mass index” and implemented it as a benchmark for determining obesity. The formula has been used for this ever since. Although there are now separate reference values for men and women, this formula still does not provide a valid result. Body composition and age continue to be disregarded.
Body composition as a gauge for health
“There simply isn’t one single indicator for health at present”, says Dr. Maximilian Schubert, medical director at the VIVAMAYR Health Resort Altaussee, in summary. “However, what does tell us much more is the balance between muscle mass, fat and water.” Specific values are not important here. The relationship between these three parameters is much more important. The body’s water content should make up the largest proportion, at 40 to 60 percent, while 30 to 40 percent of the body should be the muscle mass and the rest fat. “However, these are only rough guidelines that can vary greatly when considered on an individual basis”, the health expert says, qualifying this information.
There are many methods for measuring body composition. The ideal measurement should be taken on an empty stomach. Some devices allow the last meal to be consumed four to five hours before the measurement, while others require a 12-hour fast. “No matter which method you choose to measure body composition, it is important that you use the same measuring device to take a comparison measurement, ideally three to six months later or on an annual basis”, Dr. Schubert explains.
If the body fat percentage is too high, the root causes of this should be explored. Excess food can be one of the causes but a lack of micro-nutrients or an emotional imbalance can also cause excess weight or health problems. At VIVAMAYR, we employ various methods, such as functional myodiagnostics and blood analyses to check the supply of micro-nutrients and hormonal balance. This identifies the causes of any imbalance in the body composition.
Well-being as the greatest pitfall of health
Feeling good in your body is definitely beneficial for your mental health but reveals nothing about your physical state of health. “Well-being is the greatest pitfall when it comes to physical health, for it is what makes us most complacent in the long term”, Dr. Schubert notes. In the same breath, he also names diabetes as an issue, “which creeps up on you so slowly that sometimes you don’t notice it until it’s almost too late. What’s more, humans in general have a very powerful intellect, with which we can justify pretty much anything”, says the doctor, providing some food for thought.
After all, feeling good in your own body can indeed mean that you are truly healthy, but it may only be half the story too. “Somebody saying they feel well by no means proves they are truly physically and mentally healthy. To find out how well somebody really is requires a certain sensitivity and intuition”, Dr. Schubert points out, referring to the close connection between body and mind. This is because a positive attitude to life can also play a major role in a person’s physical health. “You cannot separate one from the other. Although the body may well still be functioning at a high level, mental health can actually be heavily impaired. Ultimately, a psychological problem will always have an impact on the body in the longer term and vice versa”, says Dr. Schubert, highlighting the holistic view. This is why it is so important to harmonise both body and mind.
Physical and emotional balance as an indicator of health
Your weight and body mass index can certainly be helpful parameters when defining a specific goal, such as weight loss. However, they do not have much informative value at all in terms of health. If this were the case, every weightlifter would be deemed overweight, when in fact they simply exhibit a shift in the ratio between muscle and fat in favour of more muscle. But they are by no means disadvantaged in terms of health as a result of having too much fat.
To realistically assess the health of an individual, an analysis of the composition of the body with regard to water, fat and muscles is much more telling. Coupled with a person’s mental state and attitude to life, these factors allow much more accurate conclusions about the actual individual health to be drawn.
“Of course, exercise and movement should not be forgotten here either, i.e. how much somebody moves and whether they specifically exercise or not”, adds Dr. Schubert to complete the construct of health.
No matter which medical programs you choose at VIVAMAYR, we always work in a holistic fashion and adjust the treatment individually to help you become healthy or maintain your health. VIVAMAYR experts also provide tips for implementing the health-promoting measures in day-to-day life in the long term. Ask us without commitment. We’re happy to advise you!