Dexa Scans – What Are They?
A DEXA scan is a non-invasive test that measures bone mineral density. This test assesses the risk for osteoporosis and osteopenia. At APEX, we use this test in a different way – to measure total body composition as it relates to overall health. DEXA stands for dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. This test is also abbreviated DXA. It makes sense to shorten that mouthful down to DEXA, but it makes sense. It is two x-ray beams aimed at the bones to measure their density. There is only one way to determine how strong your bones are and that is a DEXA scan. The DEXA is also the gold standard in measuring body composition (body fat percentage, total body fat mass, muscle mass, visceral adipose tissue) compared to other methods.
Purpose of Dexa Scans?
DEXA scans measures weakness or brittle bones in order to determine the odds of a future fracture and if other care is necessary. They also measure total body composition to determine if someone is carrying excess body fat, too much visceral fat or doesn’t have enough muscle mass, which is called sarcopenia. After an initial DEXA scan, follow up scans can be done to track progress over time, for both bone density and total body composition.
Some other reasons an individual might get a DEXA scan include:
- A break or bone loss in the spine
- Back pain
- Loss of height in one years time
- An inch and a half of height loss
- Excess body fat
- High BMI
- Poor muscle strength
- Family history of diabetes, heart attack, stroke or heart disease
*It is recommended that women over 65 and men over 70 have a bone density scan done to test for bone health. The difference in age is due to loss of bone during menopause from lower estrogen.
Dexa Scan Procedure? (What To Expect)
Arrive early to complete registration paperwork. Be sure that your clothing is metal/ hard plastic free or that you are ready to change. This includes: No zippers, buttons, reflective materials, jewelry or watches, and no bras with clasps or underwire. No metal or hard plastic hair clips or pins. If you have metal in your body (such as a replaced joint or a pin in a bone), you should inform the technician.
You will be positioned on the scanner with your arms at your side, on your back with your legs extended on the table. The scan takes between 5 and 11 minutes, based on height and weight, and will be reviewed with you after the scan is done.
Interpreting Your Results?
DEXA scan results give you body fat, muscle mass, fat mass and bone density. Bone density is scored with a T-score and Z-score. T-score is a comparison of a person’s bone density of a healthy, same sex, 30-year-old. The lower the score the higher your risk for osteoporosis.
Body fat is measured as a percentage. To get body fat percentage, you divide your fat mass by total mass (fat + muscle + bone). You will also be given an AG (android / gynoid ratio) which indicates abdominal fat as well as visceral adipose tissue (in pounds) which is a predictor for longevity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and heart attack risk.
Dexa Scan Safety and Precautions?
During the scan, people should remain still to prevent blurry images. The scan is painless and relatively quick, taking less than 10 minutes.
The DEXA scan is safe for most people. However, because it uses X-ray energy, there is exposure to radiation. People who are pregnant should talk with their doctor, who may advise them not to have the test.
How to Keep Your Bones Strong?
The best way to keep your bones strong include the following activities and approaches.
- Supplementation of calcium
- Supplementation of Vitamin D
- Weight bearing exercise – weight training, plyometrics, calisthenics (30 minutes per day)
- Limit alcohol
- Limit smoking
- Eat healthier
Best Way to Measure Body Composition?
Weighing yourself daily, weekly or even monthly is not the best way to know how healthy you are. Body mass index (BMI) is not a relevant tool either. Measuring your body composition would be the most effective way to track your progress considering the possibility your body is losing fat and gaining muscle!?
If you have a high muscle mass, and low body fat, you still may be classified incorrectly with a high BMI and weight. To avoid this confusion, a body composition test should be done. This would tell you your body mass, fat free mass, fat mass and muscle mass. It also shows other key health factors like muscle volume, sarcopenia, visceral fat, and body fat percentage. Similarly, you might have a healthy BMI, but still have a high body fat percentage and higher visceral fat (deadly fat surrounding your internal organs).
Knowing your body fat percentage will more accurately reflect your overall health. Maintaining a healthy body fat percentage, or body composition, is important to prevent negative health risks and disease. If you know your fat mass and fat free mass, you can better plan your fitness, exercise, and nutrition to work smarter and not harder. Learning your body composition is key for optimal health, performance and appearance.
There are several techniques to measure body composition. These include DEXA, In-body, hydrostatic, bioimpedance, bod-pod, calipers and more. The most accurate way to measure is through the use of DEXA Scans.
Visceral Adipose Tissue?
Visceral adipose tissue is the fat surrounding the internal organs. This fat is known as the deadly fat, which is often associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart attack, high blood pressure and more.
Why DEXA? Advantages / Disadvantages
DEXA is the gold standard in body composition analysis. No need for bod pod, bioimpedance scales, hydrostatic, in-body or calipers, which all boast large margins of error. The DEXA has between 1-2% margin of error and minimal to no variability from scan to scan. It provides information that BMI and other testing cannot. The most important of these measurements is visceral adipose tissue (VAT) which is a leading predictor of longevity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. The DEXA also assesses body fat, bone mass, muscle mass, visceral adipose tissue and sarcopenia. It is also extremely simple to do.
Stop guessing and start measuring – Because when it comes to your health, precision and accuracy are the most important. Getting results from the DEXA will help you lose stubborn body fat, build more muscle efficiently, and optimize your health. Compare muscle gains and fat loss with limb to limb comparisons, and identify personal long-term health risk factors (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, metabolic syndrome).
How much does a DEXA scan cost?
DEXA scans cost $97 when purchased on their own. This price is below the national average of $150. It can also be significantly cheaper than using your insurance (depending on your insurance coverage). When packaged with resting metabolic rate test, vo2 max testing, athlete assessment or wellness screening, the price is reduced even further. If you have any questions or concerns we can help with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.