MEDICAL INSIGHTS: Grip strength is a telling tale

October 1, 2018

Grip strength is an interesting topic . Measurement of strength with a hand dynamometer could be somewhat prophetic with regards to longevity and general health. A firm handshake may be a better predictor of future health as compared to other well known measurements such as blood pressure recordings.

In a recent study from Great Britain, over 500,000 men and women ranging in age from 40 to 69 years were followed at intervals from 2007 to 2010. Muscle weakness was defined as a grip strength of less than 26 kilograms or 57 pounds for men and less than 13 kilograms or 35 pounds for women.

Of those followed, 13,000 died from either heart disease, respiratory disease, or cancer. In those with a sub-optimal grip strength, death from heart disease was increased by 19 percent for women and by 22 percent for men. Respiratory death was increased by 31 percent for women and 24 percent for men. Cancer was increased by 17 percent for women and 10 percent for men.

For each 5 kilogram or 22 pound decrease in grip strength there was a was an increase in all cause mortality of 20 percent for women and 16 percent for men.

In this study low grip strength was associated with lower socioeconomic status, cigarette smoking, increased waist circumference and limited physical activity and minimal exercise. This group also watched TV longer than the healthier group who had better grip strength.

The study did not prove how muscle strength influenced health but it was stated that skeletal muscle strength is underrated in measurements of overall health.It was stated that grip strength could act as a potential biomarker for aging. Muscle strength is decreased in many chronic diseases and is associated with poor health outcomes for the future.

Hand strength was thought to correlate with leg strength and those who are physically active tend to have less sedentary time . Those who were physically active were noted to have better grip strength.

However ,in another article from April of this year it was noted that grip strength may also be a good indicator of brain health. In this study 476,559 participants were tested for visual memory, reaction time, reasoning, number memory and prospective memory. There was a relationship between higher grip strength and cognition .People who are stronger tend to have brains that function better than those with lesser grip strength.There was a relationship between cognitive abilities and muscle strength.

It appears that there is an inverse relationship between grip strength and early death from all causes yet a direct relationship between brain health and grip strength. It just may be that we can make our brains healthier through exercise especially if that exercise includes muscle strength training. Pushing the remote control button does not count as exercise and Alexa may save you steps around the house but walking to the light switch does count as movement. Therefore, keep moving and get a grip.

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