Weak muscles an indicator of heart risk

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grip strength

A weak grip has been shown to indicate an increased risk of death, stroke and heart attack.

Researchers from 23 different universities and hospitals, coordinated by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, tested 142,861 people in high-, middle- and low-income situations across 17 countries using a grip-strength measure and tracked them over four years. The study aimed to discover if a simple, low-cost muscle-strength test could predict risk of death and disease.

People who had weaker grips were found to have a higher chance of dying during the study period, and a higher chance of having a heart attack or stroke. In general terms, the researchers were able to establish that a weaker grip is a strong predictor of death from cardiovascular disease and a moderately strong predictor of having a heart attack or stroke.

The study authors point out that these findings don’t necessarily predict whether people will develop disease, rather they predict how people will cope with disease if they develop it.

Furthermore, while the study confirms a link between muscle strength and resilient health, it does not follow from these findings that strengthening your muscles confers resistance to cardiac illness and stroke.

The UK’s NHS Choices cautions further: “Should doctors routinely measure people’s grip strength to test their health? The researchers say it is a better predictor of cardiovascular death than blood pressure, and could be easily used in lower-income countries. But raised blood pressure and cholesterol both increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and there are treatments available to get them under control. Simply measuring a person’s grip strength would miss this opportunity and not lead to any preventive strategies. The “grip test” could be used in poorer countries as a quick way to identify people who might be at risk of heart attack or stroke, who could then benefit from follow-up testing.”

The study was published in The Lancet.

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