Thursday, December 13, 2018

My DEXA Scan Experience

I am not a numbers person - not in math, not in statistics, not in the scale (anymore), so when I got an email offering me a free DEXA scan with body composition analysis, I dismissed it without a second thought.  But then I had a second thought and looked into it; when I saw that a DEXA scan gives a bone mineral analysis, I decided to take the offer.  Being a 55-year-old woman, I probably should have an idea if my bones are about to crumble into dust, right?

The process was simple enough, considering there was only one place in town who offers the scan.  It happened to be in the same building and is connected with my orthopedist's practice, so I was comfortable with going there as it's a nice facility with a professional staff.  It was easy to call and make my appointment - the cost was $100 for the first scan, and $75 for a second scan if you wanted to have one later to see any changes that you might have made as a result of the first scan.

I was told to wear clothing that didn't have metal in it, and to leave off jewelry; I was expecting to have to remove my bra once I got there because of the metal hooks but the technician said that wasn't necessary, so all I did was remove my shoes, climb up on the table, and get scanned.

The table looked like a standard X-ray table, with the scanner above it.  I didn't think to take pictures because I was too busy asking questions about the process, which my technician answered in detail, but here's a picture of the machine:
Thank you Google for this image.

I laid on my back and the technician aligned my body along a center line; once that was done he gave my feet a tug and strapped them together at the ankle.  I was to hold still and the scan began, starting at my head and working down my body.  Once the scanner was past my hips I could relax my arms, which was nice.  The scan took about 10 minutes, and it wasn't noisy at all, unlike an MRI or even a CT - and is it sad that I know what both of those machines sound like?  I digress.

Afterward, I sat up and the report was generated and printed so the technician could go over the results with me right away.  I liked that this was a one-visit experience and didn't have to wait for the results.

The results:  My bones are good!  Yipee!!  I kind of though that they would be in decent shape based on genetics - my mother, grandmother, and grandma don't/didn't have any osteoporosis issues, but you never know when a rogue gene will pop up with crumbly bones.  This scan provided BMD (bone mineral density) analysis for the entire body and broke it down by region (head, arms, legs, trunk, ribs, spine, and pelvis). Bone strength is done with an age-matched comparison, and I was in the 99% percentile, so I feel pretty good about that.  If this scan had shown some red flags in any of the areas, or the total number, I would need to have a separate scan that concentrated on those areas.

The DEXA scan also provides results and analysis for a number of other things, which I'll list below:

RMR (resting metabolic rate):  The minimum number of calories my body needs daily, at rest.  The number - 1,506 - is an estimate and one that I suspect is too high for me - if I ate 1,500 calories daily along with all of the workouts and running I'm doing, I don't think anything would change for me except for becoming more compact as my muscle mass increases.

Body Fat:  The report provides both a total percentage number, as well as mass (weight), lean tissue and fat tissue.  I have more lean tissue than fat, woohoo!  I also saw my weight, which I haven't seen in many years - it's not as bad as I thought, although I will say that I've gone down a pant size since I started workout out at BCS Fitness so that is probably a contributing factor.

VAT (visceral adipose tissue):  Fat that is associated with obesity and Type 2 diabetes.  Considering that even when I was at my lowest weight after my big weight loss my stomach was still blobby, it didn't surprise me to see this result was considered unhealthy.

Muscle Balance Report:  I'm unbalanced, what else is new?  Oh, not just mentally, LOL - my left arm is stronger (I'm left-handed) but my right leg is stronger, which is probably due to the calf muscle tear in my left leg: I'm able to work it as much as the right leg now, so that should probably sort itself out soon enough.

This was an interesting experience - I didn't pay too much attention to the actual numbers and percentages presented to me in the post-scan report, because my brain pretty much glosses over numbers, but it was a good bit of information to get, especially considering that I've started doing my intense workouts again.  I'll get my second scan in four to six months and report back with any changes that might happen. 

10 comments:

  1. Wasn't it the coolest thing? I'm looking forward to doing the follow up--just to monitor the changes that seem to be inevitable for us older ladies.

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    1. I was just happy to see that I don't have dust for bones, LOL.

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  2. Very cool. I like that you're getting it done again so you can see how things have changed.

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    1. The technician said that getting a second scan is what most people do, especially if they're working on changes.

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  3. Man these things must be getting popular! I have never heard of this and then BAM all of a sudden I'm reading about lots of people doing this! I am a number nerd so I'm not sure what I would do with this info but I guess it's nice to think over! Oh and it seems like everyone else who reviewed this also had a muscle imbalance. I wonder if that is a common thing kind of like when they say no ones feet are exactly the same size?

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    1. I suspect you're hearing about them because they did a blogger review rollout. And on the muscle imbalance, as my tech explained, if it's not much, especially in the arms, it's simply because of whatever hand you write with. He said I should be sure to put as much effort into using weights with the other arm as I do with the dominant one; that's a little harder because my right shoulder is cranky due (I suspect) to having broken my upper arm when I was a kid.

      I think the leg thing will resolve eventually - but it will be interesting to see if that really happens when I do the next scan.

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  4. So I'm confused. You said you got an email for a free scan, but then you said how much they cost (which still seems like a good deal compared to an MRI) It all seems like good news. I'm curious how they can tell how many calories you need.

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    1. Sorry for the confusion - the media company representing DEXA sent me the money via Paypal to cover the scan. So I paid for it with their money.

      I guess the calorie number is based on my height, weight, and percentage of fat/muscle? I didn't delve into that too much with the technician beyond telling him that it was too high - expert on my body and all that...

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  5. Glad your bones are good! :) I love how this scan gives so much information!

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  6. I got an email offer for one of these as well, but I just have not had the time to think about doing it to blog about. Maybe I will if they are still offering it after the holidays.

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