A firm handshake could be a sign of a longer life expectancy, according to British researchers. Scientists at the Medical Research Council found that elderly people who could still give a firm handshake and walk at a brisk pace were likely to outlive their slower peers.
They found simple measures of physical capability like shaking hands, walking, getting up from a chair and balancing on one leg were related to life span, even after accounting for age, sex and body size. The study is the first to provide a comprehensive view of the existing research by pooling data from 33 studies.
"These measures have been used in population-based research for quite a long time," said Rachel Cooper of the Medical Research Council's Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing. "They may be useful indicators for subsequent health."
Cooper, whose study appears in the British Medical Journal ( http://link.reuters.com/wat72p ), said more studies are needed to clarify whether the measures would be helpful to doctors as a screening tool. "I wouldn't suggest that we roll them out into clinical practice tomorrow, but it is possible that they could be used in the future," she told Reuters Health.
The researchers examined 33 studies involving tens of thousands of people, most of whom were aged over 60 but living in the community rather than in hospital or care homes. Of 14 studies dealing with grip strength, the researchers found that those with the strongest hand grasps tended to live longer than those with limp grips.
The death rate over the period of the studies for people with weak handshakes was 67 percent higher than for people with a firm grip. The slowest walkers were nearly three times more likely to die during the study period than swifter walkers. The people who were slowest to get up from a chair had about double the mortality rate compared to the quick risers.
"Those people in the general population who have higher physical capability levels are likely to live longer," Cooper said.
(Reporting by Frederik Joelving of Reuters Health, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)