Hand grip strength could be used as a simple measure of heart health, according to UK researchers, who have found that a weak grip can be linked with changes in the heart’s structure and function. As a result, the scientists at Queen Mary University of London suggested it could be used as a broad measure of someone’s heart health.
“Better hand grip strength is associated with having a healthier heart structure and function”
By asking people to grip a dynamometer device for three seconds, the researchers were able to determine someone’s grip strength and compare this to detailed scans of their heart. Using data from nearly 5,000 people enrolled in the UK Biobank study, the team found that people with low grip strength had weaker hearts that were less able to pump blood around the body.
Low hand grip strength was also associated with having enlarged, damaged hearts, said authors of the study which was published in the journal PLOS ONE and funded by the British Heart Foundation.
Participants in the study underwent cutting-edge heart scans that allowed the researchers to precisely work out the volume of blood that was pumped by their heart with every heartbeat. They found that better hand grip strength was associated with higher volumes and proportions of blood being pumped by the heart and healthier heart muscle.
“Measuring someone’s grip strength could be a cheap and easy way of finding those most at risk of heart attacks and strokes”
Identifying patients who are at risk of cardiovascular events, such as stroke and myocardial infarction, could allow them to get treatment and, ultimately, save lives, said the study authors.
Professor Steffen Petersen, who led the research, said: “Our study shows that better hand grip strength is associated with having a healthier heart structure and function.
“Hand grip strength is an inexpensive, reproducible and easy to implement measure, and could become an easy way of identifying people at high risk of heart disease and preventing major life-changing events, such as heart attacks,” he said.
Julie Ward, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Measuring someone’s grip strength, alongside knowing their family history and other risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, could be a cheap and easy way of finding those most at risk of heart attacks and strokes.
“More research is needed to understand exactly how weak grip strength is associated with poorer heart function,” she noted.
She added: “It’s important to keep in mind that this research does not mean you will have a heart attack if you find yourself with a limp handshake or struggling to open a jar.”
By Steve Ford, News Editor Nursing Times
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