According to a recent study published in The Lancet, the firmness of your handshake might communicate more than just confidence. The study found that across cultural and geographic boundaries, people with strong grips tended to live longer, and that grip strength might be a better indicator of potential longevity than blood pressure.

The study, led by Dr. Darryl Leong of McMaster University in Canada, examined data from about 140,000 adults living in 17 countries. Their grip strength was tested using a device called a handgrip dynamometer.

The researchers found that across the board, people with weaker grip strength were more susceptible to cardiovascular problems like heart disease and stroke and were more likely to die during the study period. More precisely, for every five-kilogram decrease in grip strength, a person was 16 percent more likely to die from any cause and 17 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. These effects were consistent even after controlling for factors like age, educational level, physical activity and tobacco use. 

The researchers believe that physicians should use this finding to develop a simple clinical test to screen patients who are at high risk for heart disease and stroke. 

"Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual's risk of death and cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Leong, but he also cautioned that "[f]urther research is needed to establish whether efforts to improve muscle strength are likely to reduce an individual's risk of death and cardiovascular disease."

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