Weak grip strength is linked with shorter survival and a greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke, according to an international study.
Researchers found grip strength was a stronger predictor of death than systolic blood pressure, and suggest it could be used as a quick, low-cost screening tool by clinicians to identify patients at high risk of cardiovascular events.
The study, published in The Lancet, involved almost 140,000 adults from 17 culturally and economically diverse countries.
“Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test”
Grip strength was assessed using a handgrip dynamometer. A low grip strength was linked with higher death rates in people who develop CVD and non-cardiovascular diseases, such as cancer, suggesting that muscle strength can predict the risk of death in people who develop a major illness.
The findings show that every 5kg decline in grip strength was associated with a 16% increased risk of death from any cause.
More specifically, it was linked with a 17% greater risk of CVD death, a 17% higher risk of non-CVD mortality, and more modest increases in the risk of having a heart attack (7%) or a stroke (9%).
The associations persisted even after taking into account other factors that affect mortality or heart disease such as age, education level, employment status, physical activity level, and tobacco and alcohol use.
Lead study author Dr Darryl Leong from McMaster University in Canada, said: “Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual’s risk of death and cardiovascular disease.
“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,” he added.
Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The findings of this study are interesting, however, it doesn’t explain why grip strength should be related to cardiovascular disease.
“More research is needed to understand any possible link between the two,” she said.