What Your DEXA Score Doesn't Tell You

Changing orthopedic doctors may result in a change to your DEXA score - if your new doctor uses a different brand of DEXA machine. That’s because DEXA scan equipment varies from one machine to another by as much as 4%, and may be even higher for hip scans. 

While there are many brands of DEXA machines, there is no unified program for measurement.  This can make it challenging to accurately measure the success or failure of your current bone health program. Adhering to the same machine is one way to streamline your DEXA results, but there are other ways in which your DEXA results don’t show the ‘big picture’ of your bone health.

DEXA scans measure quantity of bone and not quality of bone.  Quantity of bone refers to bone hardness, or bone mineralization, which is maintained by supplementing with three important bone building-blocks: calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. Bone hardness is an important measurement for bone health, but there is such a thing as over supplementing with calcium, to the point where bones become stiff and brittle, and your risk of fracture actually increases.

Quality of bone refers to bones’ ability to be resilient and flexible, and bounce back from impact or fall. Bone quality depends on the health of bone collagen. Collagen support and bone flexibility are two things that aren’t measured by a DEXA scan.  Collagen is the support structure of bone and it requires supplementing with an organic form of silicon to keep it healthy.  Silicon helps form bone collagen and strengthens collagen protein. This is the same collagen structure that supports hair, skin and nails - so silicon supplements have additional benefits for your appearance.

Silicon is the one nutrient where bone hardness and bone collagen support intersect.  Silicon helps improve the effects of calcium and vitamin D by driving calcium into bone where it is needed, and keeping it away from the heart and other places in the body where it can do harm. Learn more: Silicon for Bone Health; Beauty Benefits of Silicon.

A final variable of your DEXA scan is body mass.  A woman with a small frame who supplements with calcium, vitamin D, silicon, magnesium and other essential vitamins, might have a lower DEXA scan than a larger woman with the same routine. That’s because the X-ray beam doesn’t have to travel as far to scan the smaller woman’s bones, and the machine reads the lighter shadow as an indication she has thinner bones.

It’s important to know how to read changes in your DEXA score, but understand that bone density is not the only point of success.  To see the ‘big picture’, your bone health program requires better diet, regular exercise, and supplementing with bone healthy nutrients that we don’t get enough of in our diets.

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