Grip Strength and Cognitive Decline

Declining mental function with age can be so subtle that it’s easy to miss. But what if your muscles could be a window to your mind?  A new study suggests that hand-grip strength may be an indicator of cognitive decline in older adults.

The study analyzed more than 17,000 seniors. Compared with those who had symmetric and strong hand-grip strength:

👉 Those with one hand that was stronger than the other had a 15% increased odds of cognitive decline

👉 Those with weak grip strength had a 65% increased odds of cognitive decline

👉 Those with BOTH weakness and asymmetrical grip strength had a 95% increased odds of cognitive decline

The most curious finding was that people who had much stronger grip strength in their NONDOMINANT hand were at the highest risk of cognitive decline.

The researchers think that muscle strength in the hands might link to neural circuits that also relate to brain health…but we don’t know for sure.


While all of this is intriguing, it’s important to know that grip strength is NOT a standard test for cognitive health. If you have any concerns, there are other tests and evaluations that your doctor can run to screen for cognitive decline.


Please reach out if you have any questions about mental and cognitive health. We’re here to help!

Five Tips to Support Brain Health
  1. Eat a nutrient dense diet. Include lots of colorful vegetables and fruits. Avoid sugary foods that spike your blood sugar. 
  2. Get physical exercise every day. Go for a walk, do cardio or strength training for 30 minutes a day.
  3. Get mental stimulation. Read a book, be social, solve a puzzle. Keep your brain active.
  4. Get plenty of quality sleep. Sleep is regenerative and very healing for your body. 
  5. Try new things.
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Nutrients that Support Brain Health
  • Fish: oily fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s help build Membranes in a cell, every cell in the body including the brain (neurons). Researchers have identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are another great source of omega-3’s as well as antioxidants. Nuts and seeds are packed full of vitamin E, rich in vitamins E, B6, niacin and folate; and they provide minerals such as magnesium, zinc, plant iron, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Avocados: avocados are a great source of unsaturated fat. Eating monounsaturated fats may reduce blood pressure which high blood pressure is linked to cognitive decline.
  • Eggs: eggs are a great source of B vitamins. Research suggests vitamin B-6, B-12 and folate may prevent brain shrinkage and cognitive decline.
  • Broccoli: broccoli bleongs to the cruciferous vegetable group, it is a low calorie source of fiber and is rich in compounds called glucosinolates. When the body breaks these down the produce isothiocyanates. These compounds may reduce oxidative stress and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Broccoli also contains vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, andpotassium. It also boasts more protein than most other vegetables.

McGrath R, Cawthon PM, Cesari M, Al Snih S, Clark BC. Handgrip Strength Asymmetry and Weakness Are Associated with Lower Cognitive Function: A Panel Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2020.

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