Elevated blood pressure may not predict early death in those with weak grip strength

In the journals

Published: July, 2017

A study of almost 7,500 men and women ages 65 or older suggests that among those with weak grip strength, elevated blood pressure does not serve as a sign of a high risk of early death.

Grip strength is a commonly used measure to assess frailty in older individuals. The research, published online March 17, 2017, by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, measured the participants' grip strength and blood pressure. Grip strength was measured with a hand dynamometer, with "weak" defined as a reading of less than 26 kilograms (kg) for men.

After six years, having had an elevated systolic (upper number) blood pressure — higher than 150 millimeters of mercury — was associated with a 24% higher death rate among participants who'd had normal grip strength. However, among those who'd originally had a weak grip strength, elevated systolic blood pressure was linked with only a 6% higher death rate.

The findings suggest that treating high blood pressure in older patients should not follow a one-size-fits-all approach, according to the researchers. When an older person still functions at a high level physically, high blood pressure can help indicate mortality risk. However, when a person is not physically robust, high blood pressure may not always be a viable marker.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.