BMI, short for body mass index, is a common way of checking your health. It is calculated by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by your squared height in metres. However, it is not an accurate way of getting an overall picture of your health, because it doesn’t take into account things such as exercise habits, muscle mass, nutrition and overall lifestyle. 

In fact, the whole idea of using a single measurement, such as the BMI, in order to gauge our overall health is outdated. It gives no indication of the state of our mental health, or what is going on inside our bodies.

1. Body Fat Percentage

dairy product, milk
Amanda Shulman

One thing that the BMI cannot distinguish between is body fat and lean muscle mass. Therefore, calculating your body fat percentage will tell you how much of your body is muscle and how much is fat. This is a much more effective way of measuring health than the BMI, because it focuses on the makeup of your weight, rather than just the quantity.

2. Body Measurements

Nancy Chen

Your waist circumference is also a good indication of your overall health. According to medical researchers, a waist measuring over 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men indicates that it would be beneficial for your health to lose weight. For some easy, waistline-friendly recipes, click here.

3. Blood Test

Blood tests are used by doctors and nurses in order to assess your general state of health, including how well your liver, kidneys, heart and other organs are working, as well as checking for diabetes and certain infections.

One of the most important things a blood test can check is your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels can lead to coronary heart disease, which has serious implications such as angina and heart attacks. According to the NHS, coronary heart disease is the UK’s single biggest killer. It is also the leading cause of death worldwide. To find out your heart age, click here.

4. Strength

For good overall physical health, muscle strength is just as important as cardiovascular endurance. Besides, strength training itself has some surprising health benefits, including reducing symptoms of depression and lowering your risk of developing diabetes. Click here for some tips on how to make your workouts more effective.

5. Sleeping Pattern

Ideally, around eight hours of sleep per night is required in order to stay healthy. A sudden change in sleeping pattern can be an indication of a health problem. Conditions such as depression, anemia, and stress can all affect your sleeping habits.

6. Toilet Habits

beer, cake, tea, coffee
Steven Baboun

This is a totally taboo subject but it really shouldn’t be, because your poop can tell you a lot about your health. It’s really important to pay attention to any changes in your toilet habits, as that’s often one of the most obvious indicators that there is something wrong.

7. Mood

How you feel emotionally often has a direct connection to your health. Prolonged negative emotions can indicate a mental illness such as depression. Statistically, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. If you are concerned about your (or someone else’s) mental health, speak to your doctor, university counsellor or visit Mind, the mental health charity, website for information and support.