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What Can a DEXA Scan Reveal About Bone Health?

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Bone health is an important but often overlooked aspect of physical health, but the standard method of taking scans of the body (x-ray) isn’t ideal for diagnosing certain bone-related conditions. That’s why board-certified family physician Dr. Steven Zivich and the team at Boston Direct Health offer dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scans. Learn more about DEXA scans and what a DEXA scan can reveal about bone health for patients throughout the Boston, MA area.

What is a DEXA scan?

As we mentioned, DEXA stands for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Though similar to traditional x-ray technology most people are familiar with, DEXA scans use a low level of ionizing radiation (x-rays) to measure the mineral content of bones. DEXA is often referred to as bone densitometry because it’s used to better understand bone density. Dr. Zivich and the team at Boston Direct Health conduct DEXA scans for Boston, Back Bay, Cambridge, and Somerville, MA area patients, and these scans are typically quick and easy, taking only a few minutes.

Is a DEXA scan the same as an x-ray?

DEXA scans use x-ray technology to reveal bone density, but the ionizing radiation used to create the scan is about one-tenth the level a person is exposed to when having a traditional x-ray.

What conditions can be diagnosed with a DEXA scan?

DEXA scans can reveal a great deal of information about bone health, which makes them ideal for people who have a history of bone-related health conditions, like osteoporosis; have suffered a broken bone; have arthritis or lupus; or are taking medications that can affect bone strength and density.

DEXA is the preferred technology for diagnosing osteoporosis, which is a condition in which the bones deteriorate and become brittle. This can make a person more prone to fractures and other bone injuries, and the most common osteoporosis-related fractures are in the spine, wrist, and hip. Osteoporosis affects women and men of all races, though older women are most at risk. Race is also a factor, as White and Asian people have higher rates of osteoporosis than people of other races and ethnicities.

While osteoporosis is the most common condition that can be diagnosed and measured with a DEXA scan, it’s also recommended for several other conditions, including:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Chronic kidney or liver disease

  • Use of corticosteroids, anti-seizure medications, and high-dose thyroid replacement drugs

  • Type 1 diabetes

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Bone fracture after mild trauma

How can you help maintain bone health?

Certain conditions that impact bone density can be inherited, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, and while age is a primary factor in the development of osteoporosis, the condition most often measured using a DEXA scan, certain lifestyle choices may help keep your bones healthy longer.

  • Weight: While being overweight isn’t necessarily in itself a risk factor for osteoporosis, for men and women in Boston, MA with small frames, their risk is greater because their bones have less mass to begin with. So, for men and women who are shorter than average, carrying extra weight can place extra strain on bones that may be more prone to osteoporosis to begin with.

  • Diet: Eating foods rich in calcium can help strengthen your bones and decrease your risk of bone loss and fractures as you get older.

  • Exercise: Individuals with sedentary lifestyles have higher rates of osteoporosis than those who are more active. This doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym, though, as simple activities like walking or dancing can benefit bone health.

Contact our office for a DEXA scan

If you have a family history of osteoporosis, arthritis, or other conditions that affect bone health, contact Dr. Steven Zivich and the team at Boston Direct Health to discuss whether a DEXA scan is right for you. This easy and accurate scan can be performed in just a few minutes at our Boston, MA facility, and our team can help you manage your condition if the scan reveals an issue with your bone health.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.