Hand-Grip Strength May Provide Heart Health Clues

Researchers found decrease was linked to higher risk of heart attack, stroke and premature death

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter


WEDNESDAY, May 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Testing hand-grip strength could be a cheap and simple way of identifying people at increased risk for heart attack, stroke and premature death, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at nearly 140,000 adults who underwent grip-strength tests. The participants were aged 35 to 70, and they were from 17 countries. Their health was followed for an average of four years.

Every 11-pound decrease in grip strength was associated with a 16 percent increased risk of death from any cause, the investigators found.

Each decrease was also tied to a 17 percent raised risk of heart-related death or death from non-heart causes. And, every 11-pound drop in grip strength was also associated with a 9 percent increased risk of stroke and a 7 percent higher risk of heart attack, the findings showed.

Although this study found an association between grip strength and the risk of heart attack, stroke and early death, it wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between these factors.

Still, the researchers said that grip strength appears to be a stronger predictor of premature death than systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading).

And, the link between grip strength and increased risk of heart attack, stroke and premature death remained even after the researchers accounted for other factors that affect death risk and heart disease, such as age, education level, smoking, drinking, exercise and employment status.

The study was published May 13 in The Lancet.

"Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual's risk of death and cardiovascular disease," study lead author Dr. Darryl Leong, from the Population Health Research Institute at Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University in Canada, said in a journal news release.

"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," Leong added.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Avan Aihie Sayer, a professor at the University of Southampton, and Thomas Kirkwood, a professor at Newcastle University, both in the United Kingdom, wrote: "This is not a new idea, but findings from [this study] add support."