ILD Nutrition Manual: Body Mass Index

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for people with lung disease. Excess weight can increase shortness of breath and puts a strain on your heart. It can also lead to serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. Being underweight can decrease your energy level and make you more susceptible to infection.

A good way to assess your weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, and it applies to both adult men and women. You can calculate your BMI with this printable table from the National Institutes of Health, or use UCSF's online BMI calculator.

You should aim for a BMI of around 20 to 30. Certain groups may need to keep the following in mind when calculating their BMI:

  • Body builders — Because muscle weighs more than fat, people who are unusually muscular may have a higher BMI.
  • Elderly — It's often healthier for the elderly to have a BMI between 25 and 27, rather than lower than 25. If you're older than 65, for example, a slightly higher BMI may help protect you from osteoporosis.
  • Children — This BMI information and table applies to adults only. Talk to your child's doctor about what's an appropriate weight for your child's age.


ILD Nutrition Manual Index:


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.