A firm handshake conveys it all at the interview or a meeting. What if this shake could predict your heart health too? Handshakes cannot be rigid as you are obliged to shake your hand in the process. But, they could be unstable where your fingers don’t linger long enough over the other person’s hand and you seem compelled to do so. Society and science defer various meanings from a single handshake. While these might be true, the grip of your handshake releases your thoughts to quite a different genre of introspection-overall body health.
An international study on this covered more than 1,40,000 participants living across 17 countries and followed their health for an average of four years. The participant’s average age was between 40 and 70. Every 5-kilogram decrease in grip strength over the study period was associated with a 16% increased risk of death (cause might be anything), 17% increased risk of death from heart disease, 9% increased death risk from stroke and a 7% increased death risk from heart attack. Despite correcting other contributing factors of heart disease such as age, smoking and physical activity, the association between grip strength and cardiovascular disease remained strong constantly. The beauty of this research is that, grip strength turns out to be a better indicator of heart disease compared to blood pressure.
Chronological Versus Biological Age
You might convey a different age number when asked by someone while you might be actually older. Many people at every junction of their life always have two different ages-one for the world and the other one which is the actual age. Coincidentally too, every human has two different ages namely chronological and biological age. Chronological age is the actual number of years a person has lived in this earth while biological age refers to how old a person looks which depends on factors such as diet, exercise, stress, muscle strength and many others. Biological age clearly shows whether the body functions better or worse than its chronological age.
This study imparts the knowledge that getting to know one’s grip strength is a clean way of predicting a person’s biological age. While decreased hand grip does not increase the risk of diabetes, cancer or other chronic conditions, it does increase the risk of death directly. That’s because, a person with decreased muscle strength is highly likelier to die when he/she is affected by any chronic condition compared to those who have increased muscle strength.
‘Heart’ of the Problem
Now that we know grip strength is related to heart functioning, let’s delve into its effects on the shape and function of the heart. A group of researchers measured grip strength of more than 5,000 individuals and created a statistical model. This model consisted of various factors that could impact data such as cardiac risk factors, drivers of muscle mass and physical activity level. Results showed that individuals having a stronger hand grip were pumping more blood per heartbeat. They were also suffering less from a condition called as remodeling of the heart muscle that normally happens due to high BP or heart attack. When an individual suffers from less remodeling, he/she is at a reduced risk of cardiovascular damages. Hence, better handgrip also ‘ups’ the heart functioning greatly.
In every way, improving muscle strength seems to be the way out. Engage yourself in resistance training twice or thrice a week taking a day or two off between these resistance training days.
Lift Off the ‘Weights’
People directly jump onto weights carrying 10-15-kilogram ones with a resolution of building muscle mass. Apart from moving around with dumbbells, you can try resistance bands too. These bands are excellent choices for practicing resistance training exercises as they provide resistance as you flex your arms and legs through a serious of various movements. When you don’t have time to hit the gym try few innovative ones at home that are only extended versions of what you practice at the gym:
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.