Weak handgrip may be sign of impaired cognition, memory loss

In a new study, researchers found for older Americans, poor handgrip may be a sign of impaired cognition and memory.

The finding is important for doctors and patients seeking ways to retain physical and mental function.

The research was conducted by a team from the University of Michigan and North Dakota State University

They followed nearly 14,000 participants from the 2006 Health and Retirement Study, age 50 and older, for eight years.

They assessed handgrip with a hand-held dynamometer, and cognitive function with a modified Mini-Mental State Examination, a widely used test among the elderly that includes tests of orientation, attention, memory, language and visual-spatial skills.

The researchers found that every 5-kg reduction in handgrip strength was linked to 10% greater odds for any cognitive impairment and 18% greater odds for severe cognitive impairment.

The results contribute to the evidence that providers should include grip strength––not currently used––in routine health assessments for older adults, said the first author.

More importantly, the findings mean that a reduction in grip strength is linked to neural degeneration, which underscores the importance of muscle-building exercise.

The team says staying physically active could affect people’s overall health and cognitive health.

One author of the study is Ryan McGrath, assistant professor at North Dakota State University.

The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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