New research published in The Lancet suggests that testing grip strength could be a quick, low-cost screening tool for clinicians to identify patients at a greater risk of mortality due to cardiovascular (CV) and non-cardiovascular disease (such as cancer).

In the current analysis, 139,691 adults between the ages of 35–70 from 17 countries in The Prospective Urban-Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study were followed for an average of four years. Grip strength was measured as the force exerted when a subject squeezes an object as hard as possible with their hands and assessed using a handgrip dynamometer.

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The researchers discovered that every 5kg decline in grip strength was associated with a 16% increased risk of all-cause mortality, 17% for CV death, 17% for non-cardiovascular mortality, 7% for heart attack, and 9% for stroke. The increased risks remained even after controlling for age, education level, employment status, physical activity level, and tobacco and alcohol use.

Lead author Darryl Leong, MBBS, MPH, PhD, FRACP, FESC, from McMaster University, stated that grip strength has the potential to be an easy and inexpensive test to assess a patient’s risk of mortality and CV disease. Additional research to evaluate the efficacy of efforts to improve muscle strength in reducing mortality and cardiovascular disease is also needed.

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