It turns outhere might be a super simple way to determine whether you are at-risk for heart disease, stroke and even a shorter life span – your hand grip.
A large study of nearly 140,000 people from 17 economically diverse countries found a clear and consistent link between grip strength and death from any cause, but especially from heart attack and stroke. It could be a cheap, quick and simple way for doctors to determine who needs the most attention.
Study participants first tested their grip strength with a device called a dynamometer, and then researchers followed up with them after an average of four years to see how they were doing in terms of health. They found that every five-kilogram reduction in grip strength (about 11 pounds) from the average was linked to a 16 percent increased risk of death, a 17 percent increased risk of cardiovascular death, a 9 percent increase in stroke and a 7 percent increase in heart attack.
These findings were true even when researchers accounted for factors such as differences in age, sex, education level, diet, exercise, prior disease and body mass index, to name a few that could potentially skew results.
Interestingly, the handgrip test was better able to predict a person’s risk for certain outcomes than the more traditional means of measuring systolic blood pressure or inquiring about physical activity levels.
The research suggests an important role muscle tone and strength play in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Currently, the hand grip test is not standard in clinical exams, but researchers suggest that the cheap, simple hand grip test might be especially useful to assess risk of death in people with pneumonia, cancer or heart disease. It may also be useful in low-resource settings, where access to more sophisticated tests is limited.
It is not yet clear whether strengthening one’s muscles can lead to a decrease in the risk for cardiovascular disease, or whether muscular strength indicates physical fitness and thus a healthy heart. Further research is needed to confirm this cause-and-effect relationship.