Hand Grip and Cognitive Impairment
Can the strength in your hands help diagnose cognitive impairment? It may. That’s what researchers found in a study using data from the Health and Retirement Study.
A team lead by researchers at North Dakota State University included almost 14,000 people age 50 or older who were followed over 8 years. They found that each 5 kg decrease in handgrip strength (roughly 11 pounds) was linked to 10% greater odds of having any cognitive impairment.
As people age, they lose muscle mass, resulting in a weaker grip. Grip strength also can weaken due to age-related changes in parts of the brain that coordinate movement. These same areas of the brain also correspond to cognition. The neural and motor functions needed for the grip strength test may become compromised when cognitive impairment starts.
The good news about these findings is that handgrip strength may be a potential low-cost, easy way to help detect cognitive impairment and, in combination with other measures, to identify people who may benefit from early interventions.