SHAKING hands can be a minefield.
Do you trust their hands are clean? Do you match the person’s grip? Is a handshake even necessary, or does a simple nod suffice in the post-Covid era?
At the same time, we often infer a lot about someones personality from their handshake.
But as it turns out, your shake can reveal a lot about the state of your health too, from your likelihood of having a stroke to your depression risk.
Poor heart health
A weak handshake may be linked to a greater risk of heart attack or stroke, according to research by scientists at Queen Mary University of London.
The data revealed those with low grip strengths had weaker hearts, which were less able to pump blood around the body.
On the other hand, stronger shakers were found to have higher volumes and proportions of blood pumped by the heart, and a healthier heart muscle – both factors have been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular problems.
It’s not only heart attacks and strokes that are associated with a less-than-firm grip.
A study of over a million adolescent males born in Sweden between 1951 and 1976 revealed that lower hand-grip strength was “significantly associated with higher all-cause mortality.”
A separate nationwide study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that those who develop a weak hold in midlife have a 20 per cent higher risk of death from heart and respiratory diseases and cancer.
A weak grip has long been associated with nervousness but it could actually signal poor mental health.
South Korean researchers at Yonsei University College of Medicine also found people with a weaker hand grip were up to three times more likely to have undiagnosed depression.
This means doctors may in future be able to tell if a patient is in the early stages of the condition simply by shaking their hand.
The reason for this is not clear, but one theory is that having a softer grip can be a marker for poorer overall physical strength, caused by the lack of physical activity — a typical hallmark of declining mental wellbeing.
When to see a doctor
If you think you could have any of the condition highlighted in the story, it’s important you see your GP. A doctor can also test your grip strength.