Researchers at Queen Mary University in London found that the strength of a handshake is an inexpensive way to predict heart health.
Handgrip strength was measured using a hydraulic machine, where participants were asked to squeeze a handle as strongly as possible for three seconds on each hand.
The researchers looked at more than 5,000 men and women who were aged 40 to 69 between 2006 and 2010 across 22 centres in the UK who had no previous heart conditions.
The study subjects carried out an extensive questionnaire before undergoing physical checks and giving biological samples and some underwent follow-up checks.
The team then studied magnetic resonance images (MRI scans) of participants’ hearts along with data on their hand grip strength.
The researchers found that stronger hand grip is linked to heart shape and risk of heart problems, while weaker grippers had a greater risk of lasting damage from heart conditions.
From 5,065 participants, the study found that those with a stronger hand grip pumped more blood per heartbeat despite a lower heart mass and had less chance of heart remodelling, which is what happens during high blood pressure or heart attack.
The study revealed that 17.3 million deaths per year worldwide are caused by cardiovascular disease, which is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030.
Author Dr Steffen Petersen said considering these figures, it is important to identify predictors of cardiovascular disease (CVD) to be able to initiate evidence-based prevention among individuals at risk.
Dr Petersen said: “We found that better handgrip strength is associated with having a healthier heart structure and function, which was not previously known.
“Handgrip strength is an inexpensive, reproducible and easy to implement measure, and could become an important method for identifying those at a high risk of heart disease and preventing major life-changing events, such as heart attacks.
“These findings advance our understanding of the pathophysiologic process that may mediate the association between handgrip strength and cardiovascular incidence and mortality.
“Handgrip strength might thus allow earlier identification of individuals at risk of development of CVD.
“Focussed surveillance and intervention may improve outcomes but further research is necessary to assess whether fitness training can reduce cardiac remodelling and prevent cardiovascular events.”
Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study participants were taken from the UK Biobank, which is a prospective cohort study of more than 500,000 men and women.