It’s no secret in the medical world that hand grip strength is associated with heart health, cardiac events and death.

You may be wondering what on earth does hand grip strength have to do with heart health. Keep reading…

A study associates hand grip strength with the actual shape and function of the heart.

  • 5,065 participants
  • MRI’s of their hearts were analyzed.
  • Their hand grip strength was measured.
  • Other factors were considered such as cardiac risk factors and physical activity level of the participants.

Results of the Study

  • The hearts of people with stronger hand grips typically pumped more blood with each beat (higher ejection fraction) despite a lower heart mass.
  • This meant that these better-pumping hearts had less reshaping of their muscle. The reshaping (remodeling) of heart muscle is a bad thing and classically occurs with chronic high blood pressure or after a heart attack.
  • A lower degree of reshaping reduces risk of cardiovascular events.

“Our study of over 4,600 people shows that better handgrip strength is associated with having a healthier heart structure and function,” explains Steffen Peterson in the PLOS ONE report (March 2018).

“Handgrip strength is an inexpensive, reproducible and easy to implement measure,” continues Peterson in the paper.

Why Good Hand Grip Strength Is Linked to Good Heart Health

The answer is logical. We all know (or, we all should know) that plenty of vigorous exercise is great for the heart.

Chances are pretty high that anyone who regularly does intense exercise includes some form of incidental hand gripping action in this exercise.

For example, people who adhere to a solid strength training program will have a stronger grip – as a result of handling weightlifting equipment.

Shutterstock/Jasminko Ibrakovic

Those who participate in strength training are very likely, then, to also participate in regular cardio training – which is exactly what the heart needs for optimal function.

Strength training, too, benefits the heart, but aerobic training in particular is very beneficial to cardiovascular health.

So where there’s strength training (which produces the byproduct of increased grip strength), there is aerobic training.

Another way to look at this is that consistent physical activity outside the gym, that involves gripping, will benefit heart health.

  • For example, how about mountain biking? The rider keeps a firm grip on the bike’s handlebars while exercising the heart.
  • What about someone who punches at a heavy bag? Grip strength will be improved somewhat, while the aerobic nature of this activity will benefit the heart.

People who are very physically active in day to day living will tend to have stronger grips, and high levels of physical activity in day to day living are linked to better heart health.

The tasks of daily living add up, even if each task, in isolation, occurs very seldom.

There’d be a benefit to hand grip strength in someone who never hires anyone—or asks anyone — to rearrange his furniture, load furniture or heavy things into his car, carry heavy things around the house, do his heavy gardening, take out the heavy rubbish, etc.

On the other hand (no pun intended), the individual who avoids physical work at every chance will cheat his hands of the opportunity for being stronger.

Certainly you can see the indirect relationship — in that the more active we are in the tasks of daily living, the healthier our hearts will be, and the nice side benefit is a stronger hand grip.

Being sedentary (a couch potato) but using a hand grip device while watching hours of TV a day will not lower the risk of cardiac events.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
Top image: Shutterstock/Burnt Red Hen
Source:   Why Is Hand Grip Strength Linked to Heart Health