How Your Hands Help Fight Off Heart Disease and Stroke. A new study suggests lacking this ability may lead to an early death.
Here’s how to boost it BY LISA FREEDMAN
Want to take control of your health? Get a grip. Your ability to squeeze things tightly may be as indicative as your blood pressure when it comes to predicting death, heart disease, and stroke, suggests a new Canadian study.
Researchers studied close to 140,000 adults from 17 countries over a 4-year period. Participants had their grip strength measured with something called a Jamar dynamometer—a handheld, squeezable metal contraption with hydraulics and a dial that measures force—and the scientists checked in again at the end of study.
The results: For every 5-kilogram (about 11 pounds) decrease in grip strength after the initial measurement, participants’ risk of death increased by 16 percent. Their risk of cardiovascular mortality also jumped by 17 percent, as did their risk of stroke by 9 percent.
The typical range that’s considered good for men in their 20s and 30s is around 36 to 56 kilograms, or about 80 to 123 pounds. The higher that number, the less likely you are to die early, the study suggests.
Researchers aren’t sure whether high grip strength is just a good marker of overall health, or if good muscle function can translate to less cardiovascular disease and vulnerability to other conditions.
Some reports say improved muscle strength may be linked with better blood vessel function, but more research is needed, says lead study author Darryl Leong, Ph.D., of McMaster University in Ontario.
The study results aren’t surprising to Men’s Health Fitness Director BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., creator of the Lose Your Spare Tire exercise program.
“If you can’t grip it, you can’t lift it,” says Gaddour, explaining that many of the best fat-burning and muscle-building moves require you to hold weights. “The more weight you can hold and the longer you can hold them, the better your exercise performance and overall fitness.”