An international study has associated weak grip strength with increased risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as increased risk of death from both cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular diseases. Lead investigator Dr. Darryl Leong, of the Population Health Research Institute, Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University in Canada, and colleagues publish their findings in The Lancet.
Based on their findings, the team says a grip strength test could be used as a rapid, low-cost screening tool for health care professionals to identify patients at high risk of severe illness, as well those at high risk of death from such conditions. Numerous studies have linked reduced muscular strength – as determined by grip strength – to greater risk of health conditions, disability and premature death. However, the researchers say few of these studies have provided data on how grip strength may be a predictor of disease prognosis, and many studies have only focused on specific high-income countries.
For their research, Dr. Leong and colleagues analyzed data of 139,691 adults aged 35-70 who were a part of The Prospective Urban-Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study.
Participants were from 17 low- and high-income countries – including Canada, Sweden, India, South Africa and Poland – and were followed for an average of 4 years.
The grip strength of all participants was measured using a handgrip dynamometer.
EVERY 5 KG REDUCTION IN GRIP STRENGTH INCREASES DEATH RISK BY UP TO 17%
The researchers found that for every 5 kg reduction in grip strength, participants were at 16% greater risk of all-cause death, 17% high risk of cardiovascular death and 17% increased risk of non-cardiovascular death. In addition, the team found that every 5 kg reduction in grip strength among the participants was linked to a 9% higher risk of stroke and a 7% greater risk of heart attack. The team says their findings remained even after accounting for factors that may influence cardiovascular conditions and mortality, including age, employment status, education level, physical activity level, smoking status and alcohol use.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Leong says:
“Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual’s risk of death and cardiovascular disease. Further research is needed to establish whether efforts to improve muscle strength are likely to reduce an individual’s risk of death and cardiovascular disease.”