Can your handgrip be an indicator your heart condition? Well, a recent research conducted in the United Kingdom has shown that your handgrip could in fact be a pointer to state of your cardiovascular wellness. Cardiovascular diseases account for 17.3 million deaths per year worldwide and is expected to account for 23.6 million deaths by 2030. With this in mind, the researchers set out to look for predicators that could inform us and initiate evidence based primary preventions among individuals at elevated risk.
The study which was recently published on the Journal of PLOS ONE concluded that “better handgrip strength was associated with cardiac structure, and functioning in a pattern indicative of less cardiac hypertrophy and remodelling.” These characteristics are known to be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events.
The study explained that “handgrip strength is an inexpensive, reproducible and easy to implement measure of muscular fitness that has been repeatedly shown to be associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) incidence, independent of measures of body composition such as muscle area and BMI.
The researchers measured handgrip using a machine called Hydraulic Hand Dynamometer. Afterwards, they analysed the structure and function of participants’ heart using cardiovascular magnetic resonance, also called CMR – a fast developing machine that produces high-resolution images of the heart.
The researchers studied six indicators of cardiac function, like the overall mass of the heart and a number of measurements assessing left ventricular functions, including stroke volume, ejection fraction, end-diastolic volume and end-systolic. Dr. Sebastian Beyer, an internal medicine physician in Boston and lead author of the study explained that the left ventricle is the part of the heart that is primarily responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. The stroke volume talks about the volume of blood pumped per heart beat and the end-diastolic volume is the filling capacity of the left ventricle.
The research team found that each one standard deviation increase in handgrip strength was associated with an increase in stroke volume, an increase in end-diastolic volume and a decrease in left ventricular mass.
Dr. Deena Goldwater, an attending cardiologist and geriatrician at the David Geffen School of Medicine, at the University of California, who was not involved in the study noted that handgrip strength had long been used as a quick, easy and non-invasive way of gauging cardiovascular functioning, but that this is amongst the first studies to link handgrip strength measurements with actual changes in the heart muscle. Goldwater further stated that handgrip strength is a great metric that could be easily performed in the office with immediate results unlike blood work or imaging.
Beyer however said that the precise pathway linking handgrip strength with cardiac function is still unclear, as some believe that reductions in both may be caused by dysfunctional proteins that build up in skeletal and heart muscles as people age. While others believe that inflammatory chemicals may be responsible for decrease in skeletal muscle mass and in cardiac function.
In order to rule out any additional factors that could have influenced handgrip strength and cardiac function, the researchers adjusted for variables such as high blood pressure, diabetes, physical activity, alcohol use and smoking status. Participants who also had a history of cardiovascular conditions were as well excluded.