According to a recent study, one can rapidly and easily determine muscle strength by checking handgrip strength. Researchers created cut-off values for the general population in the study, taking into account the relationship between handgrip strength and gender, body height, and age to be employed in clinical practice.
If someone’s handgrip strength is low, it might be an indication of underlying health problems, and not only in older individuals. Handgrip strength has been linked to health conditions already in younger adulthood, making it an effective screening tool. A number of studies have shown that low handgrip strength may be a manifestation of health conditions related to heart and lung problems.
In their study, IIASA researcher Sergei Scherbov, Sonja Spitzer and Nadia Steiber endeavoured to shed light on at what level of handgrip strength a doctor should consider sending a patient for further examination.
The results of the study provide standardised thresholds that directly link handgrip strength to remaining life expectancy, thus enabling practitioners to detect patients with an increased mortality risk early on.
Scherbov said, “In general, handgrip strength depends on gender, age, and the height of a person. Our task was to find the threshold related to handgrip strength that would signal a practitioner to do further examinations if a patient’s handgrip strength is below this threshold.” They added, “It is similar to measuring blood pressure. When the level of blood pressure is outside of a particular range, the doctor can either decide to prescribe a particular medicine or to send the patient to a specialist for further examination.”
Handgrip strength is measured by squeezing a dynamometer with one hand. In the study, the patient is asked to perform two attempts with each hand, the best trial being used for measurement. There is a special protocol for this process as the values may depend on whether the test was performed in a standing or a sitting position, among other considerations.
"Handgrip strength is cheap and easy to perform the test, but it may help with early diagnosis of health problems and other underlying health conditions. Monitoring the handgrip strength of the elderly (and in fact middle-aged people) may provide great benefits for the public health of aging populations. Our findings make it clear that handgrip strength is a very precise and sensitive measure of underlying health conditions. Therefore, we suggest it be used as a screening tool in medical practice," notes Steiber.
"It is important to point out that we are not suggesting that people should train handgrip strength in particular to decrease mortality risks. Most likely, if someone improves their handgrip strength through exercises, there will be no or very little impact on their overall health. However, low handgrip strength may serve as an indicator of disability because it reflects a low muscle strength, which is associated with a higher risk of death. A healthy lifestyle and exercise are still the best approaches to sustain good health or to improve it in the long term," Spitzer concludes.