Weak hand-grip linked to shorter longevity

Grip strength is a stronger indicator than systolic blood pressure of a shorter life expectancy or sudden death, according to new international study

Photo by: Biswarup Ganguly
Photo by: Biswarup Ganguly

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A new study involving almost 140,000 individuals from 17 culturally and economically different countries suggests that weak grip strength is linked with shorter life expectancy and greater risk of sudden death from causes such as a stroke or heart attack.

According to the study, published in The Lancet - one of the most prestigious and oldest medical journals - grip strength can also be employed as a quick, low-cost screening tool to determine the risk of death among patients with serious illnesses.

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

Scientists followed 139,691 adults aged between 35 and 70 years living in 17 countries for an average of four years. Their grip strength was measured by a handgrip dynamometer.

Those countries included Canada, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, Turkey, China, Colombia, Iran, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe.

Their results shows that a 5kg decline in grip strength translates into a 16 percent higher risk of death from any cause. In fact, the relationship is not even affected when other factors such as age, education level, employment, physical activity, and tobacco and alcohol use are taken into consideration.

However, the study doesn’t include if the connection applies in the other direction.

“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” said Leong.