New Tool for the Early Diagnosis of Cardiometabolic Disease

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that grip strength of young, healthy adults could prove useful in the diagnosis of diabetes and hypertension.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shares a novel approach to identify healthy adults who may be predisposed to diabetes and hypertension: muscle strength. Individuals with undiagnosed diabetes or hypertension had a lower grip strength compared to their normal counterparts who did not have the condition.

Researchers at the University of Florida analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2012, for 1467 adults 20 years or older, with normal body mass index (BMI, 18.5 to 25) and without a history of cardiovascular disease. A correlation between the hand grip strength, hypertension, and glycated hemoglobin (A1C) levels of these individuals was determined.

The analysis showed that individuals with undiagnosed diabetes had lower grip strength compared with individuals without diabetes (51.9 vs 69.8, P = .0001), as did individuals with diagnosed diabetes compared with individuals without diabetes (61.7 vs 69.8, P = .008). Similarly, those who were unaware that they suffered from hypertension had a significantly lower grip strength compared with those without hypertension (63.5 vs 71.5, P = .008), as were those with diagnosed hypertension compared with those without hypertension (60.8 vs 71.5, P<.0001).

"We've had a significant amount of interest and focus on obesity, and rightfully so," according to Arch G. Mainous III, PhD, who led the study. "But there is a concern that health problems in people who have decreased muscle mass, but don't fit the criteria of being overweight, are being missed because these people aren't targeted by screening programs."

People with “normal weight obesity” have high body fat and lower lean muscle mass with a normal BMI, and several studies have indicated a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes among these individuals. While previous studies have indicated an association between grip strength and diabetes as well as hypertension, this is the first study, the authors claim, to include a younger population sample. “This finding may have clinical utility for providers in that it points toward a quick, easily administered prescreening tool that can indicate which healthy weight patients may benefit from more intensive screening,” they conclude.