Weak Handgrip Linked To Cardiovascular Disease And Increased Risk Of Death, New Research Finds

By @hyaluronidase on
Handshake with Robot
IN PHOTO: A man shakes hands with a robotic prosthetic hand in the Intel booth at the International Consumer Electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada January 6, 2015. Reuters/Rick Wilking

Handshakes must be firm; otherwise, it will be taken as a bad first impression. However, a new study suggests there is a connection between the strength of a handgrip and the risk of dying from an illness.

The new study shows that having a weak handgrip is linked to higher risk of death from cardiovascular and other diseases. It also finds that strength of grip is a better indicator of the risk compared to measuring blood pressure.

The large study involves following almost 140,000 participants for four years, as reported in NBC news. The participants aged 35 to 70 years old hail from 17 different countries including Sweden, Pakistan, Canada and Zimbabwe. All participants have different economic and cultural backgrounds. 

Researchers from the Population Health Research Institute in McMaster University, Ontario and Hamilton Health Sciences examined the relationship between various medical conditions and muscle strength measured in handgrip strength. In the study, the subjects were required to squeeze a dynamometer that measures handgrip strength. The subjects should squeeze the device as hard as they possibly can to produce force measurement.

The results showed an obvious link between handshake and risk of death from illness even when researchers properly accounted for participants’ demographics, the published report said. Researchers found that those who had a 10-pound loss of grip strength had 16 percent higher risk of dying within four years from any disease.

People had 17 percent more chance of dying from heart attack and 7 percent would likely suffer from non-fatal heart attack, with the same amount of force lost. "Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual's risk of death and cardiovascular disease," said lead author of the study, Darryl Leong.

The mechanism for how hand grip connects to heart disease remains unclear according to Bob Mclean from Institute of Aging Research in Harvard, who was not part of the study. However, Leong expressed the need for further studies to establish if improving muscle strength can help reduce the risk of death and heart disease. The May 13 published study can be found in journal The Lancet.

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