Struggling to Open Jars? You Might Want to See a Doctor

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Woman opening a jar
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If you struggle to twist open the lid of a jar, your worries may go deeper than a little frustration.

Low handgrip strength might indicate that you have more serious underlying health problems — regardless of your age — according to researchers who authored a study recently published in the journal BMJ Open.

They note that previous studies have found links between low handgrip strength and:

  • Health conditions affecting the heart and lungs
  • Overall lower life expectancy

The recent study attempted to define which levels of handgrip strength indicate the need for a doctor to send a patient for further examination.

In a press release, researcher Sergei Scherbov of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria says:

“It is similar to measuring blood pressure. When the level of blood pressure is outside of a particular range, the doctor can either decide to prescribe a particular medicine or to send the patient to a specialist for further examination.”

To measure handgrip strength, a patient squeezes a dynamometer with one hand. In the study, the researchers tested individuals, then compared the results with other people of similar sex, age and height.

Researchers found that handgrip strength just slightly below the average when compared with such peers might indicate the presence of health conditions that could lead to an earlier death.

Researcher Nadia Steiber of the University of Vienna notes that handgrip tests are cheap and easy to administer. Using such tests might help with the early diagnosis of underlying health conditions. Steiber says:

“Our findings make it clear that handgrip strength is a very precise and sensitive measure of underlying health conditions. Therefore, we suggest it to be used as a screening tool in medical practice.”

The researchers also emphasized that people should not try to strengthen handgrip as a means of boosting their health, adding that it is unlikely that improved handgrip would have such a salutary effect.

They also noted that having a stronger handgrip compared with others of the same age, sex, and body height does not appear to reduce mortality risk.