Grip strength test to predict risk of morbidity

Measuring grip strength could be a more effective way of predicting risk of death and heart disease than checking systolic blood pressure and levels of physical activity, according to researchers.

Grip strength was an indicator of risk of all causes of mortality new research has discovered. Picture: Getty Images

A new study, led by the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences and published today in the BMJ, found that lower grip strength was strongly associated with a wide range of poorer health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease.

The study showed that higher grip strength was associated with a lower risk of all causes of mortality.

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The researchers believe a clinical test that is both cheap and easy to perform could be an important way to identify people who are at high risk for a range of diseases.

A grip strength test only takes a few seconds to do and the researchers suggest the addition of this test within clinical practice could improve the prediction ability of an office-based risk score (which currently comprises assessment of age, sex, diabetes status, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, and smoking), by identifying people with low grip strength that might benefit from further health assessments. Researchers believe this may be of particular use in areas where access to blood biochemical measures, such as cholesterol, is not possible.

Lower muscle strength is already known to be associated with greater mortality and morbidity. However, the study was able to specifically link lower grip strength to a higher incidence of and mortality from, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer.

The study looked at 500,293 participants from the UK Biobank and the associations between lower grip strength and adverse health outcomes were consistent between men and women. Researchers also investigated if grip strength risk differed by age, and found risks associated with low grip strength were slightly stronger in younger age groups, suggesting that measuring grip strength could be useful over a broad range of ages.

Lead author Dr Stuart Gray said: “We found not only was lower grip strength strongly associated with a broad range of adverse health outcomes, but that it predicted risk of death and cardiovascular disease even more strongly than systolic blood pressure or physical activity. Our findings are important because they indicate that the addition of the measurement of grip strength may be useful in screening for risk of cardiovascular disease in community or rural settings, and in developing countries.”