In a recent study from the University of Michigan, researchers find that people with weaker muscles do not typically live as long as their stronger peers.
They find that people with low muscle strength are 50% more likely to die earlier.
Previous research has shown that muscle strength may be an even more important predictor of overall health and longevity than muscle mass.
In addition, hand grip strength specifically has been found to be inversely related to mobility limitations and disability.
However, grip strength measurement currently is not part of most routine physicals
In the study, the team analyzed data of a nationally representative sample of 8,326 men and women ages 65 and older who are part of U-M’s Health and Retirement Study.
Grip strength can be measured using a device called a dynamometer, which a patient squeezes to measure their strength in kilograms.
The researchers used “cut-points,” or thresholds, to define levels of strength.
For example, muscle weakness was identified as having a hand grip strength less than 39 kg for men and 22 kg for women.
Those thresholds were derived based on the nationally representative sample, something unique to this study.
Based on their data, 46% of the sample population was considered weak at baseline.
By comparison, only about 10-13% were considered weak using other cut-points derived from less representative samples.
The researchers believe their cut-points more accurately reflect the changing population trends of older Americans and that muscle weakness is a serious public health concern.
The research finding shows that maintaining muscle strength throughout life—and especially in later life—is extremely important for longevity and aging independently.
It also highlights the importance of integrating grip strength measurements into routine care—not just for older adults but even in midlife.
The lead researcher Kate Duchowny recently completed her doctorate in epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health.
The study is published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.
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Source: Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.