Get a Grip on Your Health

Heart attack and stroke risk may be predicted by hand grip strength

(RxWiki News) A firm handshake may indicate more than just your confident personality. Good grip strength may indicate that you're in good health.

A new study found that grip strength may be a better risk predictor and screening tool for early death than blood pressure. This means that doctors might be able to use a grip strength test as a quick, low-cost way to identify patients at high risk for early death from serious illnesses like stroke and heart failure.

“Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual’s risk of death and cardiovascular disease” said lead study author Darryl P. Leong, PhD, of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, in a press release.

Past research has found a possible link between weak grip strength and shorter life spans and a higher risk of stroke or heart attack.

Dr. Leong and team followed 139,691 adults, ages 35 to 70, from the Prospective Urban-Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. The PURE study followed people from around the world for about four years.

Grip strength was measured using a handgrip dynamometer (a device that measures force) and was defined as the force used when a subject squeezed an object as hard as possible.

Dr. Leong and team found that each 5-kilogram (around 11 pounds) drop in grip strength was tied to a 16 percent higher risk of early death from any cause. This drop was also tied to a 17 percent greater risk of death from heart-related illness and a 17 percent greater risk of non-cardiovascular disease, such as cancer.

By measuring a patient’s grip strength, doctors may be able to better prescribe nutritional guidelines, exercises and other interventions to improve patient health, Dr. Leong and team noted.

This study was published May 13 in the journal The Lancet.

A number of sources funded this research. These sources included the Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University and AstraZeneca, among others. Dr. Leong and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
May 12, 2015