What's in a handshake? Well, turns out it can determine how likely you are to develop health conditions and diseases. For ages, we've judged people by their handshakes and how firm their grips are. But now, research has found that there's much more to a simple handshake. As we age, our muscle mass begins to decline. This is when your grip strength could play a role in measuring how likely you are to survive diseases like cancer, or health conditions and more.
As per the study which was conducted on people over 60 years old, grip strength, "has a predictive validity for decline in cognition, mobility, functional status and mortality." "It's not a perfect measure of overall muscle strength, but a good one," said Stuart Gray, lecturer in exercise and metabolic health. The advantage of using this method to determine fitness is that it takes very little effort and can be a rather convenient method to measure health issues in rural areas where healthcare is not very prominent.
For the measurement, the researchers opted for a $200 device called a dynamometer. The participants were asked to squeeze the device in their palms so as to determine how much pressure was applied to it. "It takes five to 10 minutes to train someone to use the device," Gray says, "so it's an easy application."
The study was able to find an association between low grip strength and increased heart conditions, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and various types of cancer, including colorectal, lung and breast. Information from about 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 years was surveyed and data was collected accordingly. "We knew that lower muscle strength is linked to higher morbidity," Gray says, "but we think it has an underappreciated role in health. We wanted to probe this more deeply in a large cohort of people to see if it was associated with more conditions."
"Muscle strength is an indicator of your ability to withstand diseases" says Darryl Leong, a cardiologist. "When you are stronger and you become ill, you have reserves that you can draw on to help fight the disease," he says. "Without muscle strength, your odds are significantly poorer." "Our research indicated that low muscle strength is associated with a higher risk of dying, first and foremost," Leong says. The research also found that "grip strength was a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure."
The study also tried to figure out what various factors could be responsible for grip strength. The researchers wanted to know if genetics played a role or the environment a person grew up in or the diet they have can play a role in grip strength. "We observed variations in muscle strength among different ethnicities," Leong says. "Is this genetic or is it a reflection of the environment in which you grow up and the diet that you eat? We want to figure that out and help prevent a loss of grip strength."
The researchers concluded by saying that there is yet a lot more research to be done to figure out what causes a rapid loss in grip strength. And the best way to stay fit is to opt for a healthy diet and exercise. Stay tuned for more updates.