Your handgrip can show your risk of type 2 diabetes

Credit: University of Bristol

In a new study, researchers found a simple test such as the strength of your handgrip could be used as a quick, low-cost screening tool to help healthcare professionals identify patients at risk of type 2 diabetes.

They measured the muscular handgrip strength of 776 men and women without a history of diabetes over a 20-year period and found that the risk of type 2 diabetes was reduced by around 50% for every unit increase in handgrip strength value.

The research was conducted by a team at the universities of Bristol and Eastern Finland.

Diabetes in all forms is the ninth major cause of death in the world. Around 90 percent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

In the UK alone, one in ten people over 40 are now living with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. It is expected that if nothing changes, more than five million people will have developed diabetes by 2025.

Though older age, obesity, family history and lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, smoking, unhealthy diet and excessive alcohol contribute substantially to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, these factors alone do not explain all of the risks for type 2 diabetes.

It appears other factors may be involved.

Reduced muscular strength, which can be measured by handgrip strength, has consistently been linked to early death, cardiovascular disease, and disability.

Until recently, there was inconsistent evidence on the relationship between handgrip strength and type 2 diabetes.

In a recent review, the same researchers found that people with higher values of handgrip strength had a 27% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In this study, they followed 776 men and women aged 60-72 years without a history of diabetes over a 20-year period and measured the power of their handgrip strength using a handgrip dynamometer.

Patients were asked to squeeze the handles of the dynamometer with their dominant hand with maximum isometric effort and maintain this for five seconds.

The researchers that the risk of type 2 diabetes was reduced by about 50% for every unit increase in handgrip strength value.

This link persisted even after taking into account several established factors that can affect type 2 diabetes such as age, family history of diabetes, physical activity, smoking, hypertension, waist circumference and fasting plasma glucose.

When information on handgrip strength was added to these established factors which are already known to predict type 2 diabetes, the prediction of type 2 diabetes improved further.

These findings may have implications for the development of type 2 diabetes prevention strategies.

Assessment of handgrip is simple, inexpensive and does not require very skilled expertise and resources and could potentially be used in the early identification of individuals at high risk of future type 2 diabetes.

Importantly, the findings appeared to be marked in women compared to men in sex-specific analyses, suggesting that women are likely to benefit from the use of this potential screening tool.

One author of the study is Dr. Setor Kunutsor from Bristol’s Musculoskeletal Research Unit.

The study is published in the Annals of Medicine.

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