I have read articles that connect lack of grip and hand strength with cardiovascular disease and premature death in the elderly. But the connection is not really clear – what is cause and and what is effect. How inevitable is it? I consider myself relatively strong for my age and size but opening jars really tight jars of pasta sauce etc has been relegated to a little robot kitchen gadget that lifts lids off. Arthritis in your thumbs can definitely limit you.
Do you have poorer grip strength because heart disease is present or do you just stop trying to manage certain tasks? Is having hand strength yet another area to be vigilant about?
So first I went deep into the annual of gerontology and found an article, http://biomedgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/58/2/M146.full . The article delineates in full medical speak the extent of age deterioration in the hand, fingers and thumb after age 65. About 1/16 th of the article mentions therapeutic exercise and then cautions about not overdoing it.
I guess I should not have thrown away that stress ball from my old job. Or maybe I should not spent so many years on a keyboard or rather mousing away. The article does not say it is inevitable for people over 65, as it notes “pianist and violinists manage to perform into old age”. Issac Perelman I could never be, but I would like to think that losing 7% of my hand function a year is something I do not have to accept.
A much more useful article that also points out that lack of hand strength can indicate nutritional deficiencies, is a bit more helpful and of course easier to read: http://www.columbiatribune.com/arts_life/pulse/hand-strength-can-be-an-indicator-of-your-health/article_18f87f8d-db70-5d76-9ed4-a914b86573f7.html.
It outlines some therapeutic exercises that again must be approached judiciously so not to do more harm than good. Having your current hand strength measured is not usually part of an exam unless you ask about it or have benefited from some physical therapy after surgery or an injury. Again this is an aspect of aging and function that is not usually explored unless you ask about it. If it may be an indicator of nutritional problems, why shouldn’t it be part of a regular exam?
I guess this is where I make a statement about taking things into your own hands. Don’t go stealing your grand kids silly putty now. So thumbs up to your hand strength and Happy Valentines Day!