Grip Strength May Help Predict Heart Attack and Stroke
By: Dr. Mercola
You might not think much about your grip strength, unless you’re trying to open a jar ofpickles, but it turns out this seemingly minute detail of fitness may reveal quite a bit about your overall health. In a study of nearly 140,000 people, ages 35 to 70 and spanning 17 countries, grip strength was found to be a simple, low-cost indicator of heart attacks and strokes. On average, male grip strength ranged between 67 and 84 pounds while female grip strength ranged from 54 to 62 pounds. For each 11-pound decrease in grip strength, there was a 17 percent increased risk of cardiovascular death, a 7 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 9 percent increased risk of stroke. There was also a 17 percent greater risk of death from causes not associated with heart disease. Grip Strength Also Linked to Total-Body Fitness. It’s unclear at this time whether specifically targeting your grip strength could lower your risk of death and heart disease, or if a strong grip is a marker of a healthier lifestyle or a tendency to exercise harder. Strength coach Jedd Johnson told Men’s Fitness: “Having strong fingers, hands, and wrists helps you lift more weight and allows you to hold the weight for longer time and more reps… This translates to better results in the gym.” In fact, research published in 2011 found that hand-grip strength is a predictor of total-body muscular
strength and endurance. Past research again found that grip strength appears to be a useful marker of overall fitness and may be associated with frailty. In those aged 64-74, low grip strength was associated with more markers of aging than was chronological age alone. Lower grip strength is also associated with reduced health-related quality of life in older men and women, and is also considered a useful tool to identify people at risk of mobility limitations, such as difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Among those in their 80s, a weak grip strength is even associated with higher mortality rates while higher grip strength is associated with higher cognitive function and hemoglobin levels. In case you’re wondering how grip strength is measured, it’s typically done using a hand-held dynamometer, which registers pounds of compression as a person squeezes it.
Surprising Factors That Influence Grip Strength
Your grip strength may be partly innate, as it’s positively associated with your weight and height at birth. However, lifestyle factors also play a role, including your diet and, in particular, consuming omega-3 fats. One study found an increase in grip strength of about 0.9 pounds occurred with each additional portion of fatty fis
h, rich in omega-3 fats, consumed per week. Hand-grip strength was also associated with vitamin D levels in one study of young women, which makes sense since vitamin D is critically important for muscle function. On the other hand, the use of certain cardiovascular drugs is associated with reduced grip strength in older people. Furosemide (Lasix) was associated with average decreases in grip strength of nearly 7 pounds among men and more than five pounds among women after adjustment for age and height. Other heart medications, including nitrates, calcium channel blockers, and fibrates were also associated with reduced grip strength. If you tend to crack your knuckles often, you may be interested to know that this habit, too, has been associated with lower grip strength.
What Type of Exercises Improve Your Grip Strength?
If your grip strength is lacking, it’s a sign that your muscles may be starting to waste away. To improve your grip strength, pull-ups are useful. The pull-up builds grip strength because your fingers, hands and forearms are all used. The Daily Burn also shared the following five exercises to help build grip strength. This shouldn’t be done as one workout, but rather try to incorporate one of these into your strength-training routine
(and rotate them regularly).
1. Partial-Grip Pull-Up
How to: Grasp a pull-up bar with a palms-down, shoulder-width grip, but leave your thumb out. Perform pull-ups as normal. Sets: 3, Reps: AMRAP (as many reps as possible), Rest: As needed
2. Plate Pinch
How to: Pinch a plate in each hand between your fingers without holding on to the handle or lip of it. Hold them at your side for as long as you can. When this gets too easy, try pinching two plates together. Sets: 3, Reps: To failure, Rest: As needed
3. Farmer’s Walk
How to: Grasp a pair of heavy dumbbells or kettle bells. Keeping the core engaged, walk from one end of the gym to the other until you can no longer hold onto the weights. Sets: 3, Reps: To failure, Rest: As needed
How to: Lie face-down on the floor, hands at shoulder-width palms on the ground, toes driving into the floor. Think about trying to grab a handful of the ground, as this will fire up the muscles in your forearms important for grip strength. Push yourself up, so your hands are under your shoulders, and your body is a straight line from the back of your head down to your heels. Slowly lower yourself down so your chest touches the floor. Sets: 3, Reps: AMRAP, Rest: As needed
A Full-Body Strength Training Routine Will Improve Your Grip Strength
The more you engage in strength training, the more you’ll be using and building your gripping muscles. In addition, a full-body strength-training program is essential to building other muscle groups as well. A strong grip strength tends to go hand-in-hand with muscle strength elsewhere in your body.
If your grip strength is weak, you’ll certainly want to begin a strength-training program… but this is important even if your grip strength is normal. If you’re not engaging in strength or resistance training, chances are you’ll become increasingly less functional with age, which can take a toll on your quality of life. Interestingly, strength training even has a beneficial impact on your gene expression. Not only has it been shown to slow cellular aging but it can actually return gene expression to youthful levels.
In seniors who take up strength training, the genes’ clocks can be turned back by as much as a decade! Age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, can actually begin far sooner than you might think—starting as early as in your 20s if you’re sedentary. After the age of 50, you tend to lose about 0.4 pounds of muscle with each passing year. So what do you have to gain by starting weight training – even if you’re already “older”? According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):“Given an adequate training stimulus, older adults can make significant gains in strength. A two- to three-fold increase in strength can be accomplished in three to four months in fibers recruited during training in older adults. With more prolonged resistance training, even a modest increase in muscle size is possible.…With increasing muscle strength come increased levels of spontaneous activity in both healthy, independent older adults and very old and frail men and women. Strength training, in addition to its possible effects on insulin action, bone density, energy metabolism, and functional status, is also an important way to increase levels of physical activity in the older adult.”
Ask the Doctors about getting your grip strength tested today!
Article credit to: Dr. Mercola
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