Dexa Scan : Benefits, how it’s done, Plus Where to do it in Kenya

My husband and I have been flirting with the idea of having another baby for a few months now. He always wanted 2 kids, while I wanted to have three. Things have changed a little lately. The thought that the next one might be a boy excites him a lot.

My first pregnancy was easy. I worked to the very last day, I suffered no pains, labor was easy and losing the baby weight was even easier. The second one was a little different. The second trimester was especially very difficult. I developed pregnancy related Pelvic girdle pains and limped for a month until I started using calcium supplements. And while I was able to go down to my pre-pregnancy weight of 55kgs barely 2 years after my first daughter was born, I still have 4 kgs to go this time round.

The older you get, the harder it becomes for your body to do the things you once did effortlessly. Pregnancy is a lot harder on your body, it is harder to lose weight, harder to gain muscle and your bones become weaker over time. This is where the DEXA scan comes in.

Measure your body fat, muscle, and bone composition, and track changes over time

What is a Dexa Scan

Also known as DXA, the DEXA scan is a medical scanning technology that was originally developed to measure bone density. A very low dose of dual energy X-rays is passed through the body to provide high resolution images and precise body composition measurements on bone, fat and lean muscle.

Fitness enthusiasts, dieters and athletes often use body composition scans to get a baseline of where they are now, and track the changes on their body over time.

The Purpose of the Dexa Scan

The scan is a great way to see exactly where you are now and measure progress. After the initial DEXA scan, subsequent scans are done to compare the progression of bone loss. This compares a baseline scan with a second scan to show whether bone density is worsening, improving, or staying the same.

The scan is also used to assess how well osteoporosis treatment is working and with fractures, a DEXA scan can assess if the break was likely due to osteoporosis.

For those on a fitness journey, the DEXA scan plays a very important role. Sometimes you exercise, eat healthier and generally feel slimmer but the scale says a different story. Most people get discouraged when they feel like they are working so hard but their weight remains the same. What they fail to understand is that following a fitness regime replaces the fat they are losing, with dense and apparently heavier muscle. DEXA in weight management motivates you to achieve your goals by showing visual and measurable results on muscle and fat.

Reasons to Have a DEXA Scan

The reasons you might want to do a DEXA Scan include;

  • You’re on a weight loss journey and would like to measure your progress
  • You are a muscle builder and would like to know how much muscle you are losing during a cut, or gaining during a bulk
  • You want to check muscle asymmetry between your left and right side
  • Have a break or bone loss in your spine as showed by an X-ray
  • You have a back pain that could be caused by a spine fracture
  • Have lost a half-inch or more of height within a year
  • You have had a total height loss of an inch and a half
  • To get a baseline measurement of fat, muscle, and bone to see where you are and track changes over time

It is generally recommended that all women 65 years and older and men 70 years and older have the DEXA scan at least once. Other people who are often advised to have the scan include;

  • Women who have reached menopause but are not taking estrogen
  • People with a history of hip fracture whether personal or maternal
  • Smokers or those whose mothers smoked while pregnant
  • Post-menopausal women who are over 5 feet, 7 inches or those who weigh less than 125 pounds
  • Men with clinical conditions associated with bone loss, such as chronic kidney disease or rheumatoid arthritis
  • People who take medications known to cause bone loss, such as prednisone,¬† Dilantin, certain barbiturates, and high-dose thyroid replacement drugs
  • Those with type 1 diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or a family history of osteoporosis
  • People with high bone turnover
  • Those with a parathyroid condition, such as¬†hyperparathyroidism or a thyroid condition, such as¬†hyperthyroidism
  • Transplant patients who who might have an increased risk of osteoporosis due to anti-rejection medications they may be taking
  • Heavy drinkers
  • People who’ve had a fracture after only mild trauma

How is a DEXA Scan Done?

I did my scan at Agakhan University Hospital. You can do it any weekday at the following times: 11am-12pm and 3pm-4pm. The actual test took me less than 15 minutes. It is also offered at Medanta Africare. Here is what to expect during the scan.

  1. Lie still on your back on a table above the X-ray generator.
  2. The legs are positioned on the padded box. In my case the box was placed against my heels
  3. The images are taken depending the the area where the scan is being done. It literally took less than 10 minutes
  4. Take the results to your doctor for interpretation

The Results Expected

  • Overall body fat, lean tissue (muscle), bone weight and percentages
  • Breakdowns for both legs, arms and your torso
  • DEXA scan image showing where your body fat and muscle is distributed
  • Visceral fat (the dangerous fat around organs)
  • Total body bone mineral density, fat mass and muscle mass
  • Muscle and fat mass in the trunk

Click here to read more.

Have you done or considered a DEXA scan? If you have, how was your experience and how has it impacted your life? Let us know in the comments below.

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