Handgrip strength is considered a biomarker of nutritional status and strength capacity, which are both linked to heart complications. However, it is not well understood how weakness, as measured by handgrip strength, factors into common heart conditions seen in aging adults such as chronic heart failure (CHF). The purpose of this study was to determine the association between weakness and incident CHF for aging Americans.
Physical measures were completed during enhanced face-to-face interviews. The core interview was typically conducted over the telephone.
Data from 17,431 adults aged at least 50 years who identified as Black or White, completed interviews without a proxy, and participated in at least one wave of the 2006–2014 waves of the Health and Retirement Study were included.
Handgrip strength was measured with a hand-held dynamometer. Healthcare provider diagnosed CHF was self-reported at each wave. Sex- and race-specific maximal handgrip strength cut-points were used for determining weakness (Black men: <40-kilograms, Black women: <31-kilograms, White men: <35-kilograms, White women: <22-kilograms). A covariate-adjusted Cox model analyzed the association between weakness and incident CHF.
Of those included, 5,397 (31.0%) were weak and 327 (1.9%) developed CHF during the mean follow-up of 4.7±2.7 years. Those who were weak had a 35% higher risk (hazard ratio: 1.35; 95% confidence interval: 1.05, 1.74) of developing CHF, compared to those who were not-weak.
Measures of handgrip strength should be utilized by healthcare providers for assessing age-related weakness, nutritional status, and CHF risk. Likewise, interventions aiming to prevent or treat CHF in aging adults should incorporate measures of handgrip strength for helping to determine efficacy of intervention programs.