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Calculating Health On The Web

A wealth of health information can be found on the Internet, and sometimes it can be overwhelming.

To get down to basics, AOL's Online advisor, Regina Lewis, tells The Early Show that "web calculators" can sometimes be the answer.

Lewis says good health often comes down to numbers, but sometimes the math can be tough. Web health calculators can give you a very quick snapshot of your health and well-being. It can also be a lot of fun.

There are plenty of calculators that dispense some of the most useful health advice you'll find on the Internet. While the Web is an important resource for people with medical conditions, the sheer volume of information available often makes it intimidating for people with everyday health questions. But with the calculators, says Lewis, you won't have to wade through lots of information or try to guess whether it's objective or reliable. They are based on simple, accepted formulas and require you to type in only a few key facts, like age, height or weight, to get your health answer.

The first calculator Lewis showed on the The Early Show calculates healthy weight: specifically, body-mass index. Lewis says BMI calculators gauge your weight relative to your height. There are dozens of them on the Web. At HealthAtoZ.com, tools include a BMI calculator and another calculator that uses the your height and body-frame size to determine your "healthy weight."

You plug in your height, then your body-frame size (Small: fingers overlap when you place your thumb and middle finger around your wrist; Medium: fingers touch when you place your thumb and middle finger around your wrist; Large: fingers do not touch when you place your thumb and middle finger around your wrist.) Hit "calculate" and your optimum weight pops up. As the site will explain, this weight is actually in the middle of a range, so don't be too worried if you don't hit it exactly.

Lewis explains, as with all these sites, it will then give you advice on how to lose or maintain weight or how to gain it if you're too low. Of course, she says to always consult your doctor.

Going with that theme, if you are maybe a little overweight, but don't want to give up your favorite dessert, Lewis says there's a site that can help.

The Dessert Wizard at www.mywebmd.com includes a list of potential indulgences and tells you how to work off the calories. Although it has a limited selection of desserts, the results are still "eye-opening." For instance, you can negate the impact of a small ice cream sundae by running for an hour or working in the garden for nearly three. Offset a six-ounce bag of gummy bears by playing with your kids for 30 minutes.

Parents curious to know how tall their kids will be can go to www.parentcenter.com. You put the parents' height, and then the current age, height, and weight of your child, and it projects the child's height as an adult. It's a fun way to get an idea of it, but while genetics certainly play a strong role in a child's height, other factors also make a difference, and the formula used to predict height isn't always accurate.

Lewis says there are tons of calculators on the Web. Here are few other recommended Web Calculators:

  1. To add up the calorie expenditure of a day's worth of activity, go to www.caloriesperhour.com.
  2. The fertility calculator listed under "tools" at www.parentsplace.com/pregnancy/calculator
  3. To find your target heart rate, go to my.webmd.com/heartrate.
  4. To figure out your cholesterol ratio, go to www.netnutritionist.com
  5. To count how much exercise it will take to burn a specific number of calories, go to aolsvc.health.webmd.aol.com/cal_calc
  6. To get your target heart rate calculator, go to aolsvc.health.webmd.aol.com/heartrate