What you'll learn about your body from a DEXA scan
Updated: Nov 2, 2018
DEXA is the ultimate body fat calculator and lean muscle monitor. It is literally x-ray vision for your ass and your abs.
DEXA stands for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.
A DEXA scanner is an x-ray machine which was originally designed to assess bone health.
Bone is one of the components of your body weight. Doctors have been using DEXA as a valuable and accurate tool to assess bone health and diagnose bone diseases like osteoporosis for many years.
But more recently, DEXA has evolved to also measure the other components of your body weight (lean soft tissue and fat) and is now widely considered the most accurate way of assessing full body composition.
But you get a whole lot more information from your DEXA scan than just your percentage body fat… it’s a great guide to your overall general health because it lets you see what’s really happening to your body fat levels, your muscle mass, and your bone health, all of which have a huge impact on your overall health.
And you get more than just a DEXA scan from your appointment with my team at Physique Science… you get a consultation with an accredited practicing dietitian who is experienced and qualified to answer your questions and offer responsible health advice.
What you learn from a DEXA consultation at Physique Science
Because we want to help you build a healthy attitude to the numbers you get from your scan, your first appointment with us will be 30-minutes long so we can run through all the info you get from your report and answer all your questions.
But so you know what you get, and you’ve got something to refer to if you forget, here’s a breakdown of the key info you will learn from your DEXA scan with us.
Your percentage body fat… this is the one everyone seems most interested in so we’ll cover this first.
We all know that carrying excess fat can increase the risk of lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, some forms of cancer etc
Your DEXA scan will tell you your percentage body fat
It also tells you the total weight of your body fat and it breaks this down to different parts of your body and what this means…. Guys tend to store more fat around their trunk while ladies carry more fat around their thighs and butt
Your total muscle mass
And again, DEXA breaks this down into different regions of the body so you can see if you are over-training or under-training any areas or show how you are recovering from injury
Maintaining your lean muscle mass (especially as you age) has significant implications on your health (check out our blog post about sarcopenia)
An indication of your bone health
Monitoring your bone health is a big deal (especially for women) as osteoporosis is a big problem… prevention is much better than the cure.
Because we perform a full body scan, the bone health reading is indicative rather than diagnostic. For a diagnostic scan, you need to have a smaller scan of just your hip and your lower back. But when we go through your report, if we think this result should be looked at in more detail, we will suggest you visit your GP to be referred for a diagnostic BMD.
Estimated VAT mass
This one is a really valuable health indicator – it represents your visceral adipose tissue (VAT) or internal fat area. Do you remember these ads with the guy getting older and slower as his waistline expanded? The message in these ads was that your waist measurement is a strong indicator of increased risk for diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Well, your DEXA VAT value is a more specific measurement of the same thing… a VAT area of more than 100cms is associated with increased disease risk and your report will reveal if you are at risk.
Once you have your results, we recommend you work with your team of health professionals (your PT or your dietitian or your doctor) to work out what changes you want to see and what you need to do to achieve them. We’re also happy to talk to your PT/dietitian/doctor… or if you don’t have a team yet, we can suggest the right services to help you achieve your goals.
You won’t always have access to this sort of experience when you book for a DEXA scan for body composition (especially if you book at an x-ray or general imaging practice), so don’t be afraid to ask the person who does your scan what their experience and qualifications are.
And a quick word about comparisons….
Your scan results will give you YOUR number. It is your baseline for measuring and monitoring your changes. And the only comparison you want to make is against yourself as you work towards your goals.
What is considered optimal body fat and muscle mass for someone else will probably be different for a whole range of factors… genetics, activity levels, dietary intake, and any specific goal. The sweet spot is going to be very different for a marathon runner, a rugby union player, or bodybuilder and, of course, for you!
Still got questions? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.