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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 9, Issue 3, Fall 2015

A hearty handshake is healthy

handgrip dynamometer
A handgrip dynamometer measures grip strength
Darryl Leong
Darryl Leong

The firmness of your hand grip is better than your blood pressure at assessing your health, says research out of the Population Health Research Institute , a joint institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences.

The study, published in The Lancet and led by Darryl Leong, assistant professor of medicine, also found that reduced muscular strength, measured by your grip, is consistently linked with early death, disability and illness.

"Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual's risk of death and cardiovascular disease," said Leong. "Doctors or other health care professionals can measure grip strength to identify patients with major illnesses such as heart failure or stoke who are at particularly high risk of dying from their illness."

The study followed almost 140,000 adults aged 35 to 70 over four years in 17 countries. Their muscle strength was measured using a handgrip dynamometer. They were taking part in the institute's Prospective Urban-Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study.

The researchers found that for every five-kilogram decline in grip strength, there was a one in six increased risk of death from any cause. There was the same 17 per cent higher risk of death from either heart disease or stroke, or non-cardiovascular conditions.

These associations with grip strength were not accounted for by differences in age, sex, education level, employment status, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use, diet, BMI, waist-to-hip ratio or other conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke or heart failure, or their country's wealth.