WASHINGTON -- Chances are you know your blood pressure. What about your BMI?

Body mass index signals if you're overweight, obese or just right considering your height. Some doctors have begun calling it a vital sign, as crucial to monitor as blood pressure.

But apparently not enough doctors check: A government panel renewed a call Monday for every adult to be screened for obesity during checkups, suggesting more physicians should be routinely calculating their patients' BMIs.

And when someone crosses the line into obesity, the doctor needs to do more than mention a diet. It's time to refer those patients for intensive nutrition-and-fitness help, say the guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Don't assume your weight is fine if the doctor doesn't bring it up.

Patients "should be asking what their BMI is, and tracking that over time," says task force member Dr. David Grossman, medical director for preventive care at the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle.

By the numbers: A normal BMI is less than 25. Obesity begins at 30. In between is considered overweight. To calculate yours: nhlbisupport.com/bmi.

Two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese. Some 17 percent of children and teens are obese, on the road to diabetes, heart disease and other ailments.

Yet BMI remains a mystery for many. Surveys show only about a third of obese patients recall their doctor counseling them about weight loss, even though people whose doctors discuss the problem are more likely to do something about it.

In yesterday's Annals of Internal Medicine, the task force concluded high-intensity behavioral interventions are the best nonsurgical advice for the obese.

It also cites insufficient evidence about lasting effects from weight-loss medications.

The task force's Grossman says a good program:

Includes 12 to 26 face-to-face meetings over a year, most in the first few months.

Makes patients set realistic weight-loss goals. Losing just 5 percent of your initial weight -- 10 pounds for a 200-pound person -- can significantly improve health.

Analyzes the blocks each patient faces in reaching those goals, from high-calorie comfort foods to depression. Spend too much time at a desk job?

Tailors ways to help people integrate physical activity into their daily routine.

Requires self-monitoring.

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