Did you know that a firm hand shake is an ultimate health signature that can say more about you than your annual blood work?
Grip strength is not just for body builders. It is an important health marker physicians need to pay more attention to.
Grip strength has received quite the attention among medical researchers, not because it can alert to hand and arm malfunction, but because it correlates well with blood pressure fluctuations.
Spiked blood pressure, weaker grip strength
Recent studies pointed out that there is a significant link between grip strength in adults and their cardiovascular well being, with firmer grips reflecting better-beating hearts. But a robust hand shake is not only linked to healthier blood pressure. It is also linked to better cholesterol, uric acid, and even hsCRP numbers.
In general, individuals with a cardiovascular disease tend to have significantly weaker grip strength than their healthy counterparts. A 2015 study published in Am J Prev Med found out that normal weight adults with high BP have an average grip of 63.5 lb, while their healthy equivalents are 13% stronger, with a grip of 71.5 lb[i].
Fluctuating blood pressure follows weak grip strength
You may already know that fluctuating blood pressure may be normal, reflecting body need for the oxygen, but you may not know that grip strength can also go up and down within minutes.
Grip strength increases in situations that evoke feelings of anger, excitement, or competitiveness. Increase in grip strength is to be expected when you follow a soccer match on TV or before a fight with your boss. Whether these temporary power boosts are linked to better cardiovascular performance is yet to be confirmed. In the meantime, don’t try to get into a bar brawl or stress yourself out just to test your power. Stress is a known contributor to hypertension, increasing its chances by about 10%.[ii]
Here is a special note for people who get dizzy on getting up or those who suffer from excessively fluctuating blood pressure. If you experience light-headedness from a sudden drop in blood pressure you may have a specific response to grip strength testing.[iii]
One study noticed that people with unstable circulation experience BP drop while squeezing the dynamometer (a device measuring grip strength). The drop is especially pronounced after one minute of squeezing at one third of maximum grip strength. Meanwhile, people with healthy hearts don’t seem to have that response. Interestingly, women were found to be more prone to fluctuating blood pressure than men.
A firm handshake reflects good cholesterol
Did you know that a weak hand shake is a stronger predictor of cardiovascular problems than a spiked blood pressure? One study estimated that for every 11 lb weakening of grip strength, the risk of death from a cardiovascular cause goes up by 17%. The same translates into 7% jump in heart attacks and 9% increase in strokes.[iv]
Stronger grip =
- higher HDL (good cholesterol)
- lower systolic (top number) BP
- lower triglycerides (cardiovascular marker)
- lower uric acid (oxidative stress marker)
- lower hsCRP (inflammation marker) in women
Grip strength does not lie. It is an excellent health marker and a quick monitoring tool for detecting cardiovascular risk. Since you likely already have a BP monitor, you may now consider an upgrade to a dynamometer and get a better grip on your heart health.
- How to lower BP with a dynamometer
- How to lower BP with hugs, seriously!
- Cookbook for a strong heart
What should your numbers be?
By now you are probably wondering what your grip strength should be. Easy. Look up the downloadable chart below. It shows at which point you may have an increase in the cardiovascular risk. Once you find your parameters (gender, age, height), memorize your minimum grip strength and do whatever it takes to never go below.
Actually, I have a better idea. Instead of waiting for hand grip to whittle down with time, increase it to your maximum, regardless of where you start from. Strong grip does not have side effects unlike most heart meds, so don’t be afraid of an overdose. The UthingTM chart below will help you decide on how high your aspirations should go.
If you don’t have a dynamometer, you can purchase it through this link. This particular brand is well-calibrated and guarantees accurate results. We used to use it in the clinic for health testing with good results.