We’ve all heard of ‘Leg Day’ and we know that people who are serious about their training break it down into body parts through the week. But have you ever heard of somebody embarking on ‘grip strength day’? I doubt it!
But it’s not quite a silly as it sounds. And that’s because it appears that there is a direct relationship between grip strength and heart health.
A strong or a weak grip can actually give clues as to the likelihood of heart attack, cardiovascular disease or strokes.
Some people can be very strong yet not display a particularly powerful grip, whilst others less bodily strong can remove the lid from even the most stubborn jar.
The benefits of a strong grip are not only practical but actually could well bring so much more to your overall health.
Grip strength and heart health – What’s the evidence?
Within the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological Study (PURE) 142,800 adults across 17 countries had their grip strength measured by the use of a dynamometer and their health was followed for four years. Researchers from 23 universities and hospitals took part.
Over time it was shown that each 11% decrease in grip strength was linked to a 16% higher risk of dying from any cause, 17% increased risk of dying from heart disease, a 9% higher risk of stroke and 7% greater chance of a heart attack.
When all other lifestyle aspects were factored in, such as smoking, age, bad diet; the link between grip strength and potentially fatal heart and circulation diseases remained compelling.
From these tests and studies it appeared that grip strength was an even better predictor of heart disease related death than even blood pressure!
The findings were deemed credible enough to be published in eminent medical journal The Lancet.
Dr Darryl Leong from the Population Health Research Institute in Canada commented, “Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual’s risk of of death and cardiovascular disease”.
The PURE study wasn’t groundbreaking, there have been other studies that indicated the same conclusions but PURE was the biggest such study ever undertaken.
Interestingly the findings were consistent whether among wealthier or poorer communities and countries, lending further credence to the results.
It has also been noted that grip strength can be a useful indicator of biological health and therefore an interesting biomarker of aging.
* It should be stated that weakening grip strength was not associated with any increase in rates of diabetes, cancer or other chronic conditions.
But why are grip strength and heart health related?
It could be that general muscle strength is a true protector against chronic medical problems and grip strength – increase and decrease – is an effective measure of this.
With this in mind, muscle strength is tremendously good for health and not just acts of strength.
So where abnormally low muscle strength is identified (allowing for factors such as age and gender) then this might be seen as a danger sign for potential cardiovascular disease and strokes. As a result strength training exercises and programmes can be put in place.
A grip strength test is never likely to become the definitive test when it comes to predicting heart disease, but it is certainly effective and complimentary to existing methods and could certainly be used as a viable ‘quick test’ in more deprived countries.
Connect here with WatchFit Expert Diane Youdale.