The strength of your grip could be a doctor's first clue about your long-term health.
In a new study from Canada's McMaster University, researchers found that a handshake is a better indicator of your health than your blood pressure. Writing in the journal The Lancet, they reported that reduced grip strength was consistently linked with early death, disability and illness.
Researchers measured muscle strength in nearly 140,000 adults over four years in 17 countries. Using a handgrip dynamometer, they found that for every 5-kilogram decline in grip strength, there was a 17 percent increased risk of death from any cause.
That level of risk was not affected by any identifiable differences among the participants, including age, gender, education, physical activity or their countries' wealth.
The researchers did take into account the probability that a healthy grip for a young man is likely to be stronger than the healthy grip of an old woman. They also noted that ethnicity appeared to make a difference. Further study is needed to set a benchmark for different countries, they said.
Principal investigator Dr. Darryl Leong suggested, "Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual's risk of death and cardiovascular disease."
What's not clear is whether working to strengthen your grip also improves your health, Leong said more research was needed to answer that question.