Having a firm handshake can be to your benefit in job interviews, but what else can you tell about a person from the strength of their grip?
According to a recent international study spanning 17 different countries, doctors may soon be able to use a person’s grip to measure their risk for heart disease and stroke.
The Significance Of A Firm Grip
Published in The Lancet, the study begins with the observation that “Reduced muscular strength, as measured by grip strength, has been associated with an increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.”(1)
“Grip strength is appealing as a simple, quick, and inexpensive means of stratifying an individual’s risk of cardiovascular death,” the study added.
But before they could make any firm conclusions, there were trials to be done. Using a longitudinal population study that spanned 17 different countries and involved a total of 142 861 participants, the researchers measured the participants grip strength, then followed them for the next several years, during which a small percentage of the study participants died.
“Grip strength was a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure,” the researchers reported.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States(2). A quick, inexpensive and efficient test involving grip strength could be a real breakthrough in terms of diagnostic and preventative medicine.
In the study, researchers took into account various other factors that could affect mortality and heart disease risk, like age, education level, physical activity level, tobacco use, and employment status, but ultimately their findings were strikingly consistent across the board.
While the idea of using grip strength to assess cardiovascular disease risk may not be new, this study provides valuable evidence to back the theory up – making diagnostic use a real possibility for the future.
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“This is not a new idea, but findings from (the study) add support,” said professor Avan Aihie Sayer and professor Thomas Kirkwood in a press release on the study(3). “Loss of grip strength is unlikely to lie on a single final common pathway for the adverse effects of aging, but it might be a particularly good marker of underlying aging processes, perhaps because of the rarity of muscle-specific diseases contributing to change in muscle function.”
The next step for cardiologist Darryl Leong, the study’s lead author, is to look into whether exercise focused on building muscle mass – such as weight training – might help reduce a patient’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
“Further research is needed to identify determinants of muscular strength and to test whether improvement in strength reduces mortality and cardiovascular disease,” he writes in the study.
If Leong is able to continue his research, the implications for preventing cardiovascular disease and stroke could be significant.