Weak grip strength and poor health go together. Did you know that improving grip strength can improve your health? Did you know that a simple dynamometer can assess health better than a battery of blood tests?
If you aspire to any decent level of health, fitness isn’t optional. It is as basic and mandatory as brushing the teeth or clipping the nails. Unfortunately, very few doctors understand this concept. That included myself many years ago. As a medical graduate I became versed in diets, supplements, and drugs, but fitness was something that, in my head, was reserved for building muscles (guys), and bikini modeling (ladies).
Fitness ignoratum, a common condition among doctors
While consulting in the clinic I avoided talking about fitness because neither I understood its value, nor I was competent in it. And I was not alone. Most health care providers were exactly in the same conundrum. Despite the “completeness” of their curricula they were as ignorant about active lifestyle as a five-year old about pressing socio-economic issues.
Active lifestyle determines health level
A few years into practicing it became evident to me that fitness or lack of thereof determines health level in ordinary people, not body builders, not bikini models, but folks like you and me and that lack of basic fitness education among doctors was the reason why so many patients ended up on medication instead of on a fitness regimen. People don’t get chronically ill because they are deficient in drugs, but because their lives are too sedentary.
Do you have sedentitis?
Every patient knows how doctors make diagnosis: by physical examination and by lab tests. But have you ever seen doctors testing squats or push-ups? Have you been sent to a lab to check your fitness level? I doubt it. Meanwhile low activity level may be the exact undiagnosed reason behind your chronic pain, high blood pressure, T2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. “Sedentitis” or “understeppoma” and their effects are rampant among Western population, but doctors have no tools to detect it. Instead..
Diagnostic substitutions, a clever business model
Instead “hereditary heart disease”, “idiopathic onset of diabetes T2”, or “age-dependent hypercholesterolemia” are promptly written down in a file. These are well covered in medical curricula and they are much better understood by doctors than jumping jacks and bench presses. These are also much easier to deal with, because the above conditions come with a rich list of “miracle” pills to choose from.
Disease is costly and complicated
No one wants to become stuck with a litany of expensive full of side-effect drugs that, despite assurances, are seldom effective in preventing heart attacks, strokes, or disease complications. No one wants to be misdiagnosed, presented with huge medical bills, denied insurance, and have their food, travel, or fun activities restricted.
Health is free and simple
But what if things can be much simpler? What if you knew that the blood pressure was directly related to number of steps taken daily, or longevity to spinal alignment? What if you found out that balance was linked to hearing acuity, and agility to sharp vision? Would you not work on these?
Grip strength predicts health
Here is your primer on grip strength. Just that one parameter is worth more than a full page of blood work. From heart disease risk to longevity your hand power is directly related to your current or future medical diagnosis, size of the pharmacy bill, risk for disability, and even the cost of your life insurance.
Your grip strength is directly related to your current and future freedom, personal maintenance costs, number of prescription meds, and a number of medical procedures your doctor is to recommend. So, why not take health matters in your own hands and get the right diagnosis.
Weak grip strength increases health risks
Do you have, or are at risk for any conditions listed below? If you do, they may be associated with “weakoma”. Invest in a dynamometer, so you can have a better understanding of where your “incurable” predicaments may be coming from.
- High blood pressure: Did you know that people with hypertension (diagnosed or not) have approximately 8 lb weaker grip than those having normal blood pressure? Strange? Shouldn’t be. After all the heart is a muscle, isn’t it?
- Heart attack risk: A powerful handshake is associated with lower risk for a heart disease, healthier heart structure and its better function. Weak-gripped face 7% higher risk for a heart attack.
- Stroke risk: Strong grip reduces the risk for stroke by 9%.
- High cholesterol: Weak grip strength is associated with higher LDL (bad cholesterol) and higher total cholesterol.
- High cardiovascular markers: Weak grip strength is positively associated with hsCRP, triglycerides, and interleukin-6, which indicates that physical fitness lowers cardiac and inflammatory markers.
- Diabetes: Hand weakness is associated with higher A1C levels and is linked to diabetes. The average difference between diabetics (diagnosed as well as non-diagnosed) and non-diabetics is about 9 lb.
- Metabolic syndrome: Insulin sensitivity goes hand in hand with a tight clench. Robustness significantly lowers the risk for metabolic syndrome and vice versa.
- Obesity: Weak grip strength is linked to fat mass, as well as obesity. Specifically, every 5kg (11lb) increase in hand power shrinks the waist by about 1 cm (about 5/16”)
- Erectile dysfunction: Weak grip strength is associated with higer incidence of erectile dysfunction. Is penis a muscle?
- Low brain function: Weaker grip is associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline in overweight women. If you can’t think straight, invest in a dynamometer.
- Admission to a hospital: Those who lack hand power are in greater need for hospitalization. They not only have much higher rate of emergencies, but they get readmitted more frequently.
- Recovery from surgery/accidents: Stronger patients experience fewer post-surgery complications and their hospital stay is shorter. Stronger women have a significantly better chance of recovery after hip fracture.
- Malnourishment: Weak grip strength is linked to nutritional deficiencies. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
- Frailty: Weak grip strength is linked to higher risk for developing multiple chronic diseases as well as sarcopenia, body weakness due to loss of muscle.
- Accelerated aging: Grip strength can be considered a universal biomarker of aging. Its loss carries a higher risk for development of modern degenerative diseases that are associated with advanced age.
- Death from cancer: Diminished hand power increases the risk of death from any cancer by 17% in women and 10% in men
- Death from respiratory disease or COPD: Weak grip strength increases the risk for death from respiratory diseases by 24% in men an 31% in women
- Death from kidney disease: Weak grip strength is associated with a higher risk of death from chronic kidney disease even when on dialysis.
- Dying before 100: Looking to see your grand-grand-kids? Elders’ grip in their 80s and 90s can predict the likelihood of making it into the 100s. It’s never too late. Hit the gym!
- Short life span: A weak grip strength is a stronger predictor for death than high systolic blood pressure. In other words, when it comes to longevity grip strength matters more than high blood pressure.
If you suffer from “weakoma”, don’t look for drugs or supplements. “Weakoma” and its effects cannot be treated with pills. However, there is no need to sob over your condition. “Weakoma” can be reversed, but that’s the topic we will address at the later posts.
For now, test your hand power and see how your score. Compare yourself with the normative charts. These carry low reading warnings. Alternatively, check out our UthingTM chart, where you can find numbers to aspire to. It’s time to get a good grip on your health!