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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Strong Grip May Mean Longer Life

Measures of Strength Predict Who Will Live Longer
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 10, 2010 -- If your grip is strong and you’re able to raise from a chair quickly, walk fast, and balance on one leg, chances are you’ll live longer than people who have difficulty doing such things, says a study published in BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal.

Researchers in the United Kingdom say they’ve found that such signs of physical strength can be used to predict mortality in older people.

Scientists at University College London’s Medical Research Council say people who can perform such acts with relative ease are likely to live longer than their peers who are weaker and slower.

Death Risk Predictors

The study, performed by Rachel Cooper, PhD, and colleagues of University College London, examined data from 33 studies that measured physical capabilities.

Fourteen studies, including data on 53,476 people, dealt with grip strength, and researchers say the death rate among the weakest people was 1.67 times greater than among strongest participants, taking age, sex, and body size into account.

They also examined data from five studies covering 14,692 people. They found that the death rate among people who walked the slowest was 2.87 times greater than among peers who walked fastest.

And the death rate among people who took the longest times to rise from a chair was about twice that of peers who were fastest.

Strong Grip Aids Health

The association of grip strength with mortality not only held true for older people, but younger ones as well. Five studies that looked at grip strength had participants with an average age under 60.

“Objective measures of physical capability are predictors of all-cause mortality in older community dwelling populations,” the authors conclude. “Such measures may therefore provide useful tools for identifying older people at higher risk of death.”

The four tasks investigated by researchers are acts common in everyday living, and the tests might be used for screening purposes so that interventions can be targeted for weaker people.

All four markers could be used as signs of general health or of disease, the researchers say.

“Grip strength measured at younger ages also predicted mortality, but whether walking speed, chair rise time, and standing balance performance are associated with mortality in younger populations remains to be seen,” the authors conclude.

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