What Your Handshake Says About Your Health

Photographed by Maria Del Rio.
We've all experienced the finger-crushing first impression of an overly firm handshake. Sure, showing confidence is important, but new research suggests the strength of your handshake might be able to predict some serious things about you — namely, how healthy your heart is.

The study, published this week in The Lancet, included data for 139,691 people from 17 different countries. First, to get some baseline characteristics, participants (all between the ages of 35 and 70) filled out a questionnaire about their activity levels. Then, researchers measured participants' hand-grip strength in person. And, they collected health data from participants once a year for the next four years.

Overall, results showed that having lower grip strength was associated with a higher risk for mortality. Even among this highly diverse sample, grip strength significantly predicted heart issues, such as stroke, as well as the likelihood of dying because of those issues. What's really crazy, though, is that in this study, grip strength was a better predictor of heart-disease-related death than systolic blood pressure was.

Of course, the correlation doesn't necessarily mean your wimpy handshake is causing heart problems. Instead, the study authors suggest that having lower grip strength may be a marker of an "increased susceptibility to cardiovascular death in people who do develop cardiovascular disease." So, having a weaker grip isn't a death sentence; it's just a sign that you may be susceptible to scarier outcomes if your heart's already not doing great. But, as usual, more research is needed before the connection can be fully understood.

So, there's at least one reason to really think about your handshake when you meet people. We already know they'll be paying attention.
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