Firm. Serious. Confident. All the qualities people perceive from a firm handshake. Or, they think you are Arnold Schwarzenegger on a steroid bender. One of the two.

What about those with less-than-firm grip, or the dead fish handshake? If you have weak grip strength, there’s a medical study casting light on potential health troubles in the future. Grip strength was associated with premature death and having a heart attack or stroke.

Research, published in The Lancet, examined 139,691 adults in twelve countries. The weaker the grip strength, the greater risk of cardiovascular events and premature death.

Measuring Grip Strength

Lacking enough Purell to shake 139,691 hands, the team used a handgrip dynamometer. Research participants, aged 35 to 70, were selected from a wide range of countries to account for cultural and economic diversity.

Following the volunteer for an average of four years, the participant pool was under the Prospective Urban-Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. During the study timeframe, 3,379 people died.

Controlling for age, tobacco and alcohol use and employment status, researchers were able to associate a weaker grip with an increase of risk factors.

handshake heart trouble

For every 11 pound (5 kilogram) drop in strength, the chances of you dying from any cause jumped 16 percent. Risks of a heart attack went up 7 percent and strokes 9 percent.

Handshake Diagnostic Tool?

According to lead author, Dr. Darryl Leong of McMaster University in Canada, the grip strength test is a worthy screening tool.

“These patients could be followed more closely for the development of major illnesses, and particular attention paid to lifestyle factors, nutrition, smoking, excessive alcohol use, and exercise.”

Using it to prescreen patients in resource-strapped areas would be key. Limited resources would allow medical staffs to group patients, according to risk. Even in first-world medical facilities, you could add the handgrip dynamometer to the barrage of tests.

Increase Grip Strength For Health

The study did not dive into whether increasing the strength of your grip could reverse the risks. “More research needs to be done to identify what determines your strength, and whether it can be sustainably increased, and if so, what the health implications are,” Leong said.

Does that mean you avoid the GripMaster from your local sporting goods store? No. Even if increasing your grip strength isn’t tied to dropping risk factors, we all spend too much time at the computer.

Keep exercising. Eat a healthy diet. Make the right lifestyle choices. We can all kick ass on our quest to health. You can’t outrun every risk, but it doesn’t mean you can’t fight back.


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