Vicki Pertiet didn’t need a fancy X-ray to tell her she was overweight, or that she didn’t like her jeans size.
But the color-coded image from a so-called DXA scan at Life Time Fitness in St. Louis Park was nonetheless motivating — showing her precisely the locations and proportions in her body of fat and muscle.
“To see it on the inside and how its affecting your organs was really eye-opening,” said Pertiet, a technology consultant who commutes to Minneapolis from suburban Chicago.
Life Time is betting on the effectiveness of DXA full body scans — both in motivating patients and informing caregivers — as part of its year-old initiative to provide a new kind of primary care in addition to fitness and recreation activities.
The use of a scanner created to assess bone density is novel and in some ways controversial given that no U.S. advisory groups recommend it as a routine check for body composition. But Dr. Kamy Farbakhsh, chief medical officer for Life Time’s Proactive Care Clinic, said it unlocks important clues that help identify the exercises and diets that patients need.
Any scale could have confirmed Pertiet’s weight, but scans found a lack of lean muscle mass, which Farbakhsh said hastened her development of diabetes. Changes in diet, along with exercises designed to add muscle, helped her improve her blood sugar scores and refrain from needing diabetes medication, he said.
Farbakhsh said a big problem with modern primary care is its lack of specificity: “Don’t just tell me go out and exercise. Don’t tell me go out and eat healthier. Tell me what eating healthier means.”
Patients pay $29 for the scans, a cost subsidized by Life Time for now as part of an effort to prove the worth of the technology.
Pertiet is a believer. She had long feared she had diabetes before her diagnosis due to her stressful lifestyle and family history with the disease.
Using the scan to find an effective solution without medication, at least for now, was a relief, she said. “That was a big benefit for me.”