Back in the day when men were men, and barnyard animals were nervous, a handshake was a measure of the man. Looking someone in the eye with a firm, strong grip conveyed a sense of purpose, resolution, integrity and honesty.
But it also turns out that such amorphous measures of virility and character correlate with true health. More so than simply reading your palm, a measure of grip as a marker of overall muscular strength relates remarkably well with life or death. This of course, is an indirect measure of overall fitness and physical condition.
A week grip reflecting reduced muscular strength has been associated with an increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. The Prospective Urban-Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study was a large population study performed in seventeen countries. The researchers looked at people of varying income across a number of different sociocultural settings. The study examined almost 150,000 people aged 35 to 70 over a period of four years.
The weaker the grip the greater the risk of dying from any cause (including cardiovascular disease) and the greater the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. So strong was this association that a week grip was a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure; a highly significant traditional risk factor for such pathologies.
So it turns out that your life and your future are quite literally in the palm of your hands.
Leong, D. P., Teo, K. K., Rangarajan, S., Lopez-Jaramillo, P., Avezum Jr, A., Orlandini, A., . . . Lear, S. A. (2015). Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. The Lancet, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)62000-6.