A Guide To Reading Your DEXA Scan Results: What Does It Mean?

A Guide To Reading Your DEXA Scan Results: What Does It Mean?

What makes DEXA scans different from other methods of body composition testing is not only its unparalleled level of accuracy, but the detailed amount of information it reveals about your body. If you have an upcoming DEXA scan appointment, it can be helpful to understand how to navigate your results to better understand your body composition. In this guide, we’ll cover how to read and interpret your DEXA scan results.

The DEXA scan results include five general categories of information, covering lean mass, fat mass, bone density, and visceral fat. The technician will guide you through each piece of your DEXA scan, but we’ll take a more in-depth look to help you become more familiar with the information. Completely understanding your DEXA scan results will help you get the most of your visit and inform a plan to reach your health goals.

Your DEXA scan results will include the following measurements:

  • Total Body Fat Percentage: The percent of the body that is composed of fat. 
  • Fat Mass Index: The total amount of fat you have relative to your height.  
  • Visceral Adipose Tissue: The measurement of visceral fat indicates the amount of internal abdominal fat around the organs. Increased VAT is  linked to cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk. 
  • Android to Gynoid Ratio: This describes where the fat is stored. Android (apple shape) refers to having most of the fat around the stomach and mid-section. Gynoid (pear shape) refers to having the fat stored around the hips. From a health risk standpoint, ideal values are believed to be less than 0.8 for women and 1.0 for men.
  • Fat Free Mass Index: The amount of mass that is not fat, including muscle, bone, organs and connective tissue. 
  • Skeletal Muscle Mass: The total amount of skeletal muscle you have. 
  • Bone Density: This shows how dense the bones are and can be used to assess the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. 
  • Resting Metabolic Rate: The number of calories the body needs to maintain its current mass under resting conditions. 

What are considered ideal scores?

The main numbers of the DEXA scan results that most people focus on are bone density, body fat, and muscle mass.

Bone density: The z-score compares your bone density to what is normal for people similar in age and body size. The t-score compares your bone density to that of a 30-year-old. Anything higher than -1.0 is representative of normal bone density. Between -1.0 and -2.5 is a risk for osteopenia. Anything under -2.5 is a risk for osteoporosis.

Body fat: Ideal body fat measurements will depend on factors like age, gender, and activity level. Athletes will have a much lower body fat percentage than average people. Those with higher body fat percentage are at greater risk for health issues including heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and some cancers. 

Normal ranges for body fat are:

Ages 20-39: 8-20 percent for men, 22-33 percent for women

Ages 40-59: 11-22 percent for men, 24-34 percent for women

Ages 60-79: 13-25 percent for men, 25-36 percent for women

Muscle mass: Higher muscle mass increases metabolic rate, meaning someone with a higher percentage will burn more calories at rest compared to someone with a lower percentage. Having more muscle mass can also prevent injuries and protect against certain illnesses and health conditions like diabetes

Normal ranges for muscle mass are:

Ages 20-39: 75-89 percent for men, 63-75.5 percent for women

Ages 40-59: 73-86 percent for men, 62-73.5 percent for women

ages 60-79: 70-84 percent for men, 60-72.5 percent for women

Fully understanding your DEXA scan results is important as you continue on your journey towards better health. If you still have questions or would like to schedule a DEXA scan appointment, contact us.

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