A study published recently in The Lancet suggests that weak hand grip strength could be linked with shorter survival and a greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and it may be a stronger predictor of death than systolic blood pressure.

According to a news release from The Lancet, study authors note that grip strength could be used as a quick, economic screening tool by doctors or other healthcare professionals to identify high-risk patients among individuals who develop major illnesses, such as heart failure and stroke.

The study’s lead author, Darryl Leong, MBBS (Hons), MPH, PhD, FRACP, FESC, from the Population Health Research Institute, Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, and his team followed 139,691 adults between 35 and 70 years old living in 17 countries from The Prospective Urban-Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study for an average of 4 years, the release says. They assessed the participants’ grip strength using a handgrip dynamometer.

The findings, the release explains, show that every 5kg decline in grip strength was associated with a 16% increased risk of death from any cause; a 17% greater risk of cardiovascular death; a 17% higher risk of non-cardiovascular mortality; and more modest increases in the risk of having a heart attack (7%) or a stroke (9%).

These associations persisted even after taking into account differences in other factors that can affect mortality or heart disease, such as age, education level, employment status, physical activity level, and tobacco and alcohol use, results say.

Also, the study suggests that low grip strength was linked with higher death rates in individuals who develop cardiovascular (eg, heart attack or stroke) and non-cardiovascular (eg, cancer) diseases, suggesting that muscle strength can predict the risk of death in individuals who develop a major illness.

Commenting on these findings, Leong notes in the release that grip strength could be an easy and economic way to test an individual’s risk of death and cardiovascular disease.

However, he says, “Further research is needed to establish whether efforts to improve muscle strength are likely to reduce [this risk].”

[Source(s): The Lancet, Science Daily]