As you get older, the barrage of testing you need to maintain your health seems endless. From your annual checkup to specialty appointments to monitor your risk for medical conditions, it can feel like you’re spending way too much time in doctors’ waiting rooms. So how do you know which tests you really need, and which are unnecessary? When it comes to a DEXA scan, you likely only need one if you meet specific risk factors.
Who needs a DEXA scan?
DEXA scans are primarily used to measure bone density and assess your risk for osteoporosis. Your provider may recommend a DEXA scan if you have one or more risk factors:
- Adults lose bone mass as they get older, starting at the age of 30. It is recommended that individuals get a DEXA scan starting at 65 for women and 70 for men, as research shows women start losing bone mass earlier than men.
- Family history of osteoporosis will predict your own risk for bone loss.
- Breaking a bone, especially after age 50, may be a sign that you’re at greater risk.
- Some chronic medical disorders weaken bones, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, liver disease and kidney disease.
- Certain medications negatively impact bone density.
Doctors use the results of DEXA scans to decide if treatment for low bone density is needed. They may recommend lifestyle changes to improve your bone health, such as increasing your calcium intake and vitamin D exposure, and engaging in resistance training exercises. If you are at risk or are diagnosed with osteoporosis, DEXA scans can be used to monitor the effectiveness of treatment over time. Your doctor will use the results of each scan to refine your treatment plan.
Take Your Health Seriously: Schedule a DEXA Scan
It’s never too early to take a proactive role in your health. Don’t wait until you experience a serious fracture or break to take your health seriously. If you meet one or multiple risk factors for low bone mass or osteoporosis, it’s time to schedule a DEXA scan.