What your handshake says about your health

A firm grip is all it takes.

Have you every judged a person by their handshake? Well now you may be able to determine their heart health too. A new Canadian study says a simple handgrip test can indicate a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, and it’s the stronger the better.

The study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, tracked nearly 140,000 people from a range of socio-economic backgrounds across the US studying the relationship between handgrip and heart attack. Although there has long been an established link between reduced muscular strength and death, disability and illness, this is the most comprehensive study to hone in on heart health.

Researchers are suggesting a simple hand-grip test could replace more common – and complex – tests, which would have great effects on the outcomes of patients around the world.

A grip test is conducted using a handgrip dynamometer, which measures the force exerted when a person squeezes an object as hard as possible with their hands.

The findings, published in The Lancet, show that for every five-kilo decline in grip strength there is an associated 16 per cent increased risk of death from any cause; a 17 per cent greater risk of cardiovascular death; a 17 per cent higher risk of non-cardiovascular mortality; and more modest increases in the risk of having a heart attack (seven per cent) or a stroke (nine per cent).

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These associations were found across the board, taking into account age, education level, physical activity level, smoking and drinking.

A low grip strength was linked with higher death rates in people who suffer a heart attack or stroke and non-cardiovascular diseases, for example cancer, suggesting muscle strength can predict the risk of death in people who develop a major illness.

The researchers concluded in medical journal The Lancet, “Further research is needed to identify determinants of muscular strength and to test whether improvement in strength reduces mortality and cardiovascular disease”.

Do you like a firm handshake? Do you worry about your heart health as you age?