Is muscle weakness the new smoking?

Credit: Victor Freitas/ Pexels.

In a recent study, scientists found that muscle weakness marked by grip strength, a proxy for overall strength capacity, is associated with accelerated biological age.

Specifically, the weaker your grip strength, the older your biological age.

Everyone ages at a different pace.

That’s why two 50-year-olds, despite living the same number of years, may have different biological ages – meaning that a host of intrinsic and extrinsic factors have caused them to age at varying paces with different levels of risk for disease and early death.

Lifestyle choices, such as diet and smoking, and illness all contribute to accelerating biological age beyond one’s chronological age.

In other words, your body is aging faster than expected.

In the study, researchers modeled the relationship between biological age and grip strength of 1,274 middle-aged and older adults using three “age acceleration clocks” based on DNA methylation, a process that provides a molecular biomarker and estimator of the pace of aging.

The clocks were originally modeled from various studies examining diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, physical disability, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation, and early mortality.

The team found that both older men and women showed an association between lower grip strength and biological age acceleration across the DNA methylation clocks.

The real strength of this study was in the eight to 10 years of observation, in which lower grip strength predicted faster biological aging measured up to a decade later.

Past studies have shown that low grip strength is an extremely strong predictor of adverse health events.

One study even found that it is a better predictor of cardiovascular events, such as myocardial infarction than systolic blood pressure – the clinical hallmark for detecting heart disorders.

The team has previously shown a robust association between weakness and chronic disease and mortality across populations.

This evidence coupled with their study’s recent findings shows the potential for clinicians to adopt the use of grip strength as a way to screen individuals for future risk of functional decline, chronic disease, and even early mortality.

The team says screening for grip strength would allow for the opportunity to design interventions to delay or prevent the onset or progression of these adverse ‘age-related’ health events.

Future research is needed to understand the connection between grip strength and age acceleration, including how inflammatory conditions contribute to age-related weakness and mortality.

Previous studies have shown that chronic inflammation in aging – known as “inflammaging” – is a significant risk factor for mortality among older adults.

This inflammation is also associated with lower grip strength and may be a significant predictor of the pathway between lower grip strength and both disability and chronic disease multimorbidity.

If you care about muscle, please read studies about why cholesterol-lowering drug statins can cause muscle pain, and Krill oil could improve muscle health in older people.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that coffee, with sugar or not, is linked to lower death risk, and results showing eating protein during dieting could prevent muscle loss.

The study was conducted by Mark Peterson et al and published in The Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia, and Muscle.

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