Scientists have discovered that a weak grip can be associated with changes in the heart’s structure and function, and could be used as a broad measure of someone’s heart health.
By asking people to grip a device called a dynamometer for three seconds, the scientists were able to determine someone’s grip strength and compare this to detailed scans of their heart.
“Our study shows that better hand grip strength is associated with having a healthier heart structure and function,” said Professor Steffen Petersen from Queen Mary University of London in the UK.
“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,” Petersen said.
Using data from nearly 5,000 people, the researchers 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, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The participants underwent 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 linked to higher volumes and proportions of blood being pumped by the heart and healthier heart muscle – which is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes.
“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,” the researchers said.