Decreased handgrip strength in the elderly is associated with increased risk of death, researchers say.

Study Findings

In a new study of 555 men and women in the Netherlands, handgrip strength was measured at age 85 and again at age 89. The researchers found that low handgrip strength at ages 85 and 89, and a greater decline in strength over time, were associated with increased risk of death from all causes. They also concluded that the association between handgrip strength and risk of death increases as people age.

The reasons for the link between muscle strength and risk of death aren't clear, said Dr. Carolina Ling, of the department of gerontology and geriatrics at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. The researchers weren't able to determine if muscle strength has a direct effect on death risk or if it's associated with other factors that ultimately lead to death.


Assessing handgrip strength can help doctors identify elderly people at risk and improve their chances of survival by taking measures to maintain their muscle strength, the researchers concluded.

"Handgrip strength is an easy measurement for clinicians to obtain," said Allen Huang, MD, a geriatrician at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada. "Handgrip dynamometers, though not commonly found in physicians' offices, are simple, low-maintenance devices."

The findings were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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