Grip Strength and Health

Grip Strength and Health

Let me tell you about one of health-cares most underrated tests for physical performance and overall health: grip strength. Here at Spriggs Chiropractic, we understand the link between grip strength and health. This is why we measure the grip strength of every new patient who presents at the clinic and repeat the test at every progress exam. Anyone who has been to the clinic as a new patient would have experienced our hand dynamometer (grip strength device). Everyone has the same look of uncertainty on their face: “What on Earth is that?” But why do we do it? Why test grip strength at all? In this blog, we will discuss the important link between grip strength and health and demonstrate why we test everyone’s grip strength.

In the pursuit of optimal health, we often focus on factors like diet, exercise, and regular check-ups with healthcare professionals. Yet, there’s a seemingly simple aspect of health that’s often overlooked but holds profound significance: hand grip strength. This humble measure of physical ability can unlock insights into an individual’s overall health status, serving as a valuable indicator of various health outcomes1. Let’s delve into the importance of hand grip strength and its intricate relationship with patient health status.

Understanding Hand Grip Strength:

Hand grip strength refers to the force exerted by the hand muscles when gripping an object1. It’s a fundamental aspect of human physical function, vital for performing everyday tasks ranging from opening jars to lifting heavy objects2. This might seem obvious so most, but as we shall discuss, the impact a reduction in grip strength has on a patient’s health is enormous. It is not until we delve into the research that we begin to fathom the depth of his impact and how grip strength can be used a biomarker for a patients current health status, and future implications1.

The Significance of Hand Grip Strength:

While grip strength might seem like a basic measure, its implications for health go far beyond mere hand strength. Let us begin with the largest amount of research and the most significant topic of all, all cause mortality.

All-Cause Mortality: The majority of the research conducted investigating the use of grip strength as a biomarker for overall health has shown that higher grip strength is associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality3. The specific amount of reduced grip strength varies across populations, the overall finding of reduce grip strength is consistent worldwide and has been described as predictive of mortality is comparable across national populations with diverse socioeconomic and health profiles and life expectancy levels4.

Muscle Mass and Strength: Hand grip strength correlates with overall muscle mass and strength throughout the body. A firm handshake isn’t just a social nicety; it can signify robust muscle function across various muscle groups, indicating physical fitness and functional ability. Maintaining adequate grip strength is essential for maintaining functional independence, particularly as we age. Strong grip enables individuals to perform activities of daily living with ease, such as dressing, cooking, and carrying groceries. Reduced grip strength may lead to dependence on others for assistance, impacting quality of life1,5. We have discussed before the links between muscle strength and other indicators of overall health.

Cognitive Decline: Cognitive decline in the later stages of life is something that we should be aware of and remain vigilant for. Over the years, researchers have turned their attention to the use of grip strength in the older adult to find ways of predicting those at high risk of deterioration in cognition and found some interesting results. A reduction in grip strength has documented to be associated with overall cognitive decline as we age6–8. The link made here is there are several areas of the brain that are involved in cognitive processing and motor function/dexterity7,8. Therefore, a deterioration in cognitive processing leads to a loss of hand function.

Cardiovascular Health: Surprisingly, grip strength isn’t solely about muscles; it also reflects cardiovascular health1,9. Studies have found correlations between grip strength and cardiovascular disease risk, with weaker grip associated with higher incidences of heart-related complications and mortality9. Believe it or not, findings from Leong et al (2015) found that hand grip strength is a stronger predictor of cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure9.

Frailty and Disability: Grip strength serves as a predictor of frailty and disability, particularly among older adults. Frail individuals with diminished grip strength are more susceptible to falls, hospitalisations, and other adverse health outcomes, highlighting the importance of maintaining muscular strength for overall health and well-being1,5.

Nutritional Status: Grip strength can also shed light on an individual’s nutritional status, or more specifically malnutrition status10. Inadequate protein intake or malnutrition can lead to muscle weakness, reflected in reduced grip strength. Monitoring grip strength can help healthcare professionals identify nutritional deficiencies and intervene accordingly.

Assessing Hand Grip Strength in Clinical Practice:

In clinical settings, measuring hand grip strength has become increasingly recognized as a valuable tool for assessing overall health status. Simple hand dynamometers provide objective measurements of grip strength, allowing healthcare professionals to track changes over time and monitor response to interventions.

Integrating Hand Grip Strength Assessment:

Integrating hand grip strength assessment into routine healthcare evaluations can enhance patient care and outcomes. By incorporating this measure into comprehensive health assessments, healthcare professionals can identify individuals at risk of functional decline, cardiovascular disease, and other health issues early on. Furthermore, interventions aimed at improving grip strength, such as resistance training and nutritional support, can be tailored to individual patient needs, promoting optimal health and well-being.

Conclusion:

Hand grip strength may seem like a modest metric, but its implications for health are profound. From assessing muscle function and cardiovascular health to predicting frailty and disability, grip strength offers valuable insights into an individual’s overall health status. By recognising the importance of hand grip strength and incorporating its assessment into routine clinical practice, healthcare professionals can empower patients to maintain functional independence, mitigate health risks, and achieve optimal health and vitality at every stage of life.

By Mark Spriggs DC, MChiro, MSc, PGCE, FRCC

References:

  1. Bohannon RW. Grip strength: An indispensable biomarker for older adults. Clin Interv Aging. 2019;14:1681-1691. doi:10.2147/CIA.S194543
  2. Wang CY, Chen LY. Grip strength in older adults: test-retest reliability and cutoff for subjective weakness of using the hands in heavy tasks. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2010;91(11):1747-1751. doi:10.1016/J.APMR.2010.07.225
  3. García-Hermoso A, Cavero-Redondo I, Ramírez-Vélez R, et al. Muscular Strength as a Predictor of All-Cause Mortality in an Apparently Healthy Population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Data From Approximately 2 Million Men and Women. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018;99(10):2100-2113.e5. doi:10.1016/J.APMR.2018.01.008
  4. Oksuzyan A, Demakakos P, Shkolnikova M, et al. Handgrip strength and its prognostic value for mortality in Moscow, Denmark, and England. PLoS One. 2017;12(9). doi:10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0182684
  5. Forrest KYZ, Williams AM, Leeds MJ, Robare JF, Bechard TJ. Patterns and Correlates of Grip Strength in Older Americans. Curr Aging Sci. 2018;11(1):63-70. doi:10.2174/1874609810666171116164000
  6. Kobayashi-Cuya KE, Sakurai R, Suzuki H, Ogawa S, Takebayashi T, Fujiwara Y. Observational Evidence of the Association Between Handgrip Strength, Hand Dexterity, and Cognitive Performance in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Systematic Review. J Epidemiol. 2018;28(9):373-381. doi:10.2188/JEA.JE20170041
  7. Haggard P. Conscious intention and motor cognition. Trends Cogn Sci. 2005;9(6):290-295. doi:10.1016/J.TICS.2005.04.012
  8. Leisman G, Moustafa AA, Shafir T. Thinking, Walking, Talking: Integratory Motor and Cognitive Brain Function. Front public Heal. 2016;4. doi:10.3389/FPUBH.2016.00094
  9. Leong DP, Teo KK, Rangarajan S, et al. Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. Lancet (London, England). 2015;386(9990):266-273. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)62000-6
  10. Zhang, Xin Shengiu YH, Zhang Y, Xu Q, et al. Handgrip Strength as a Predictor of Nutritional Status in Chinese Elderly Inpatients at Hospital Admission. Biomed Environ Sci. 2017;30(11):802-810. doi:10.3967/BES2017.108
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