I had the fantastic opportunity to have my body composition measured by the Medical professionals at UC Davis Health Sports Medicine thanks to the folks at  I was thrilled to know more about my bone mineral density particularly since I have been avoiding dairy for a while and obtaining calcium through vegetables sources. What a better way to measure your diet and exercise success through objective measures!

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Benefits of a DEXA scan

DEXA is short for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, being a quick, non-invasive procedure to accurately measure your body composition. It is considered established standard for measuring bone mineral density and the gold standard for measuring body fat percentage. An interesting report is the estimation for visceral fat, a measure that can help predict risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Unlike subcutaneous fat whose main function is energy storage, visceral fat cells are metabolically active and impact a wide variety of clinical risk factors such as fasting glucose levels, cholesterol and serum triglycerides. Visceral fat is considered more “dangerous” than subcutaneous fat given it releases proteins that contribute to inflammation, dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis and hypertension. This is an important measurement even if you are within your normal body weight, given that even subjects with a BMI of <25 kg/m2can have significant accumulation of visceral fat, increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other obesity related health risks. Another plus, it accurately measures your resting metabolic rate (daily caloric needs) based on your muscle mass.

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How is the procedure done?

The test only takes 5-6 minutes and you immediately receive a detailed report with mass of bones, fat and lean tissues (including organs and muscle). There is no special prep before the exam except for a few details that can affect its accuracy like avoiding caffeine 12 hours before the procedure, stay hydrated and avoid consuming calcium supplements 24 hours before the test. It is in a private room where you lay on a padded table, not enclosed unlike a CAT scan, and you are fully dressed. You only need to ensure you are not wearing any metal. No need to worry about radiation exposure as the amount of radiation used is extremely small; less than 1/10 of the dose of a standard chest x-ray, or basically less radiation than a 1 hour flight.

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If you are wondering about your bone density, cardiovascular disease risk and/or fitness level, I highly recommend having a DEXA scan done. It is a valuable tool for patients and athletes who want to track their progress. As always, please consult with your healthcare provider before pursuing any medical procedure, specially if you are pregnant. For me, I can now prove that chasing after a toddler while carrying a 10-month old baby is truly my cardio!

Click HERE for more information about the UC Davis Health Sports Medicine Program.

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