By: Dr. Beth Templin
It may seem strange, but your hand strength is closely related to how long you will live. What is that? Grip strength is considered to be a "biomarker" for the aging population. Biomarkers provide the individual and their medical team with a measurable indication of overall health.
Your grip strength is an indicator of both your current health status and a predictor of future health outcomes.
It may not surprise you that grip strength predicts things like upper body strength. What may be surprising is what else it predicts. According to an article in Clinical Interventions in Aging, your hand strength is also related to bone density and fractures, falls, poor nutrition, cognitive impairment, depression, sleep problems, diabetes, quality of life and having multiple disease processes.
Grip strength is a strong predictor of death from cardiovascular issues such as heart attack and stroke. This means that as your hand strength gets worse, your chance for developing these issues goes up. With this in mind, just measuring your grip strength can be used as a quick screen to determine your future health status, risk for experiencing declines and hospitalization.
As you have gotten older, you may have noticed more stiffness in your hands. You may have noticed that your knuckles are getting larger and may be a little painful from time to time. You may have noticed that you're experiencing some numbness in your hands and having more difficulty picking up or holding onto small things. All of the above are more common with age.
The problem with these changes is that as you lose your hand strength and dexterity, you begin to have trouble with fine motor tasks like writing, holding onto utensils, opening jars and bottles of water, just to name a few. In addition, you are most likely experiencing these age related changes throughout the rest of your body - weakness, stiffness, aches and pains.
One study examined how hand strength was changed by the addition of regular exercise. People 60 and older participated in regular exercise 60 minutes a day, 2 days a week for 8 months. They tested participant's hand strength prior to initiating this exercise program and then after completing the program.
What they found was that even though the exercise program did not include exercises specifically for hand strength, the participants showed improvements in their hand strength just by being more active on a regular basis. It proved the two are directly related to each other.
If you're starting to notice more trouble with your hands, chances are you're also experiencing losses in other areas. The sooner you begin to take action to slow down these changes, the better you'll be able to manage them.
If you want to specifically focus on your hands, there are many activities you can do to help improve and maintain your grip as you age.
❤ Dr. Beth
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Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.