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Hold on Tight to Maintain Brain Function

by Harvard Health
Hand gripping a jar

Handgrip strength (a measure of how strongly you can grip something or open a jar) may be tied to an increased likelihood of dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment. 

A large study published in 2022 by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that poor handgrip strength in midlife was associated with cognitive decline a decade later. More than 190,000 dementia-free men and women (average age 56) were involved in the study and were followed for at least 10 years. Participants took tests that measured handgrip strength, problem-solving skills, memory, and reasoning abilities, and they also underwent brain imaging. 

Compared with people who’d had higher handgrip strength scores at the start of the study, people with lower grip scores were more likely to later have problems with thinking and memory and had brain imaging markers of vascular dementia. 

The study was observational and doesn’t prove that poor handgrip strength caused cognitive decline, but studies have linked grip strength as an indicator of other health factors. For instance, researchers have found that having a weak grip strength is associated with a risk of heart failure and is a strong predictor of cardiac death. 

To improve your handgrip strength, squeeze a stress ball or a tennis ball with your entire hand for as many reps as you can until your hand gets tired. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat as necessary. You can also take a small, thin towel and go through the motion of twisting it like you’re wringing water out of it. Do these exercises once or twice a week. 

Did You Know 

Regularly lifting weights in addition to physical activity has been linked to a lower risk of death from any cause except cancer. The research — based on a 10-year analysis of nearly 98,000 participants — was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers found that: 

  • Working out exclusively with weights (without any moderate or vigorous physical activity) was associated with a 9% lower risk of death. 
  • Engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity (without any weightlifting) reduced the risk of death by 32%. 
  • Regularly engaging in BOTH weightlifting and physical activity had a 41% lower risk of death from any cause. 

Source: Medical News Today