DEXA Scan Prep: Here's Everything You Need to Know

Written by Krista Bugden

August 30, 2023

Did you know that osteoporosis affects one in three women over the age of 50 (1)? And many of them don’t even realize they have osteoporosis until after they break a bone.

But don’t worry, a DEXA scan can help you detect your risk of osteoporosis or an osteoporosis-related fracture. 

In this blog, we'll explain what a DEXA scan is, how to prepare for your scan, how to read your results, and a few ways you can improve your bone health. 

What’s a DEXA Scan?

The DEXA scan (or DXA), stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (2). This type of medical image test scans and measures bone mineral density, particularly at the spine and hips. It also assesses muscle and fat composition, which can be helpful if you’re trying to achieve specific body recomposition goals.

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Usually, this scan is recommended post-menopause or after the age of 65 (when a woman’s risk of osteoporosis increases due to hormonal changes). It may also be recommended if you have a family history of osteoporosis. 

At your DEXA scan appointment, you may be asked to change into a hospital gown. This prevents things like zippers, buttons, belts, and jewelry from interfering with the scan. Your doctor will then have you lie on the padded DEXA scan table, where a technician helps you get in a suitable position for the scan.

From there, the machine will typically pass over the top of your body, taking images and measurements of bones (to determine bone mineral density) and body composition (to determine the amount of fat and lean tissue in your body). This whole process is painless, non-invasive, and involves a low dose of radiation. From start to finish, it takes about 10-20 minutes, in which you’ll need to stay still the entire time.

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Preparing for Your DEXA Scan

If you’ve never had a DEXA scan, it might sound a bit daunting. So, let’s calm those nerves and get your questions answered. Here’s what you should know in preparation for your DEXA scan.

When Should I Get a DEXA Scan?

Many factors play a role in your decision to get a DEXA scan, including your age, your risk of bone-related conditions, your health provider’s recommendations, and more. 

With that said, postmenopausal women are encouraged to get a DEXA scan due to decreased estrogen levels, which increases the risk of osteoporosis. Specific medical conditions may also benefit from regular DEXA scans, such as those that negatively impact the bones or autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease. 

Regular DEXA scans can further help monitor the progress of low bone density or osteoporosis, helping to guide your treatment accordingly.

Where Can You Get a DEXA Scan?

Typically, your primary care doctor will refer you to a medical imaging clinic or department. However, you can voluntarily buy DEXA scans at certain clinics or facilities. Googling “DEXA scan near me” can help you get started finding a suitable location in your area.

How Much Is a DEXA Scan?

A DEXA scan can cost between $150 to $300. 

If a DEXA scan is being performed as a preventative measure and is recommended by your doctor, most insurance will cover it. Before scheduling your scan, make sure you check with your specific insurance company and determine what the cost will be.

What Should I Wear to a DEXA Scan?

Wear loose and comfortable clothing without buttons or metal bits near the abdomen. Sometimes, the technicians may recommend wearing a gown for your scan, so wearing something that’s easy to take on and off can be convenient.

Your doctor will further advise that you don’t take calcium supplements on the day of your scan. The scan will pick up the undissolved calcium supplement as bone, producing an inaccurate reading.

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Bone Health Collagen contains clinically-proven bioactive collagen peptides FORTIBONE® & VERISOL® for strong bones & healthy joints, skin, hair, & nails.

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How to Read DEXA Scan Results

So you got your results back. Now what? 

Without the proper information, you might stare at your results, baffled by what they mean. However, it’s quite easy to interpret using the following T-score parameters.

  • -1 or above = normal bone density
  • -1.0 to -2.5 = low bone density (osteopenia)
  • -2.5 or lower = osteoporosis
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What's Next? Consider Taking These Vitamins & Supplements for Bone Health

Bone health isn’t just something for post-menopause people to think about. Building strong bones begins right out of the womb, through adulthood, and into one’s golden years. Here are three ultra-important vitamins, minerals, and supplements to consider for optimal bone health.

Vitamins D3 & K2

When taken together, vitamins D3 and K2 work synergistically to ensure calcium is sufficiently absorbed into your bones (3, 4).

Vitamin D3 ensures the absorption and availability of calcium for bone development, maintenance, and repair. While vitamin K2 directs calcium to your bones and helps with proper bone development, maintenance, and repair. This ensures that calcium doesn't accumulate in blood vessels or soft tissues, reducing the risk of conditions like arterial calcification. 

Vitamin D3 and K2 also stimulate the production of osteocalcin, a protein responsible for binding calcium to the bone matrix. This further aids in bone development, maintenance, and repair——helping maintain bone density.

Collagen Peptides

Collagen is the main protein found in bones—making up around 20-30% of their weight., This fibrous protein is what provides bones the strength, structure, and flexibility they need to function. Many research studies indicate that taking bioactive collagen peptides may stimulate the cells responsible for bone formation, known as osteoblasts. By promoting osteoblast activity, collagen peptides can support bone mineral density and help prevent age-related bone loss (5).

In addition to this, collagen comprises about 60% of cartilage, a very firm tissue that surrounds bones. Cartilage cushions bones from the shock of falls or any other high-impact movements. That said, collagen can help maintain the integrity of your cartilage and may reduce your risk of osteoarthritis or bone fractures (6).


Magnesium helps ensure a balance between bone formation and bone breakdown (7). It helps stimulate osteoblast (bone building) activity while inhibiting excessive osteoclast (bone breaking) activity (8). Osteoblasts aid in the synthesis of new bone tissue while osteoclasts are cells involved in the breakdown of bones.

Adequate magnesium levels also ensure the activation of vitamin D, helping facilitate calcium absorption (9).

You may wonder why a calcium supplement isn’t on this list. With calcium supplementation, side effects can easily happen when taking too much (10). For this reason, it’s best to obtain calcium from the food you eat, such as cheese, milk, yogurt, seeds, beans, and almonds and take the proper supplements to help you absorb it.

Is There Anything Else I Can Do to Strengthen My Bones?

Vitamins and supplements aside, there are other impactful habits that you can create to better your bone health. Perhaps the most important is resistance training and weight-bearing activities—both of which have been shown to improve bone density (11).

A few ideas include:

  • Functional movements: pushing a grocery cart, carrying groceries, doing yard work, and squatting to pick something off the ground.
  • Weight lifting or strength training: use of free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or your own body weight for exercises.
  • Bodyweight exercises: push-ups, pull-ups, dips, lunges, and bodyweight squats.
  • Hiking, stair climbing, and crawling, lunging, and jumping
A Hand pouring a scoop of NativePath Bone Health Collagen into a coffee mug with a French Press in the background

Strengthen Your Bones Naturally

Bone Health Collagen contains clinically-proven bioactive collagen peptides FORTIBONE® & VERISOL® for strong bones & healthy joints, skin, hair, & nails.

Add to Cart

Frequently Asked Questions

A DEXA scan is considered safe and one of the most accurate ways to measure bone density and muscle mass. In fact, it’s considered to have an error rate of only 1-2%.

Krista Bugden
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Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden is a freelance writer with a BS in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She spent 5 years working as a kinesiologist, giving her the first-hand experience she needed to write well-researched, scientific, and informative blogs.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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