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Use your DEXA scan results to build a healthy weight management regimen

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Testing too soon may give you the impression that you're not improving or, worse, that you're failing. Maintain your nutrition and fitness routine and give yourself enough time in between testing to minimize frustration and despair. When it comes time to test, you'll be proud of your measured results! You just finished your first DEXA scan and have new body composition data. You now have the confidence and motivation to fine-tune your nutrition, alter your fat mass ratio, and get the most out of every session.

"When should I return for my next DEXA scan?" you might ask.

Because this first body tissue quantitation is merely the starting point, your first DEXA scan is known as a baseline scan. To determine your progress, you'll compare all your future scan findings to this baseline scan.

Regardless of the objective, it is recommended that anybody embarking on a new fitness journey or weight-loss program begin with a baseline DEXA scan. Following that, your doctor will collaborate with you to develop a testing schedule tailored to your unique objectives.

Follow-up frequency

The frequency of DEXA scans is determined by several factors, each of which depends on the individual and their objectives. Because body composition changes take time and effort, getting a DEXA scan too frequently or without commitment to your plan after a baseline will not provide you with useful information.

Allow enough time between DEXA scans for your body to adjust so that progress can be noticed. Keep the following in mind when integrating DEXA scan results and treatment into a weight-loss and lean muscle mass plan:

  1. Your body's composition varies as you progress.

We've all stood on a scale to observe how much our weight varies from day to day, sometimes even over the course of a single day. This is not true for body composition; it changes gradually and progressively, so it may take four to eight weeks to see significant improvements.

  1. Metrics that do not show improvement might be disheartening.

Have you ever begun a new exercise routine just to find out that your weight doesn't change? You've worked hard for weeks, but the scale won't budge beyond daily fluctuations. Now you understand that your body can alter and progress in ways that the scale cannot indicate - but these improvements take time.

  1. DEXA is an x-ray imaging technique.

DEXA scans employ extremely low radiation doses considered safe for most people. The radiation dose is equivalent to that of an airport body scanner or a cross-country trip.

Nevertheless, allow enough time for your body to make measurable changes between DEXA scans to ensure that the extremely low dosage of radiation is worth the benefit. 

Remember, this is a cooperative venture between you and your doctor. “It's necessary to partner with a patient,” said Dr. Lars Boman, Medical Director of Because Health. Dr. Boman is a passionate advocate for dialogue between doctor and patient. “Patients want, need somebody to explain it all. Tests provide diagnostics that will really answer the question, then we create a personal program for them.”

Here are our recommendations for DEXA scan frequency, depending on your individual goals:

Goal: weight loss

We recommend testing every 30-60 days if you want to shed a significant amount of body fat. Any diet or exercise routine change takes four weeks to show effects.  

Testing every month or two allows you to keep track of your progress and confirm that your approach is working. Regular testing also holds you accountable to yourself and keeps you motivated.

Goal: overall health and wellness

Everyone benefits from a better awareness of their own bodies. Your DEXA scan will reveal information that your scale will not, such as if you have too much body fat in comparison to your muscle mass and whether your visceral fat levels put you at risk for health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes.  

As we mature, this becomes more essential; it can get harder to maintain muscular mass and keep body fat at bay. If you want to maintain your overall health and fitness, we recommend getting a DEXA scan every 6-12 months to track your body composition and body fat-related risk factors.

DEXA technology is the gold standard for measuring and monitoring progress on your journey toward optimal health and wellness. It is more reliable by far than traditional methods such as measuring body mass index (BMI) with skinfold calipers, hydrostatic weighing, or bioelectrical impedance analysis. As you continue your path, you will discover that it is an indispensable tool.

Diet and exercise

The test itself is just the start of your journey. A baseline for your overall body composition is derived from DEXA scan results and treatment is in your control. You can take actions toward longevity on your own such as:

Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Walking is an excellent option. Other hobbies that you can enjoy including running, swimming, cycling, tennis, and team sports.  

Moderate exercise is generally safe for most individuals but speaking with your doctor before beginning an exercise program is always recommended.

Don’t underestimate the need for strength training. It takes strength to lift anything, but also to get off the toilet and up and down stairs. As we mature, muscle strength and power are also important factors in walking ability and balance for fall avoidance.

Increasing muscle mass also has a direct impact on aerobic capacity. 2–3 times each week, use weights, elastic bands, or even your own body weight.

Consume nutritious foods. Moderation is the goal. Pay attention to portion sizes, cut out juices and soda, reduce hard alcohol, and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. 2 to 3 cups of veggies and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit per day are basic recommendations.  

Although it may appear to be a large task, achieving this aim is not difficult. Snack on slices of an apple and carrots in the afternoon. Every meal should include fruits and/or vegetables.

You deserve congratulations for taking this important step. Now it is time to take the second, the third, as you continue your journey toward optimal health. Consult with your doctor or the specialists at Because Health to develop a more personalized plan for your individual goals.

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