Older people who tend to shake hands less firmly and strongly may be associated with a higher likelihood of experiencing premature death. That, at least, is the finding of a study, published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan.

The team, led by Mark D. Peterson, considered data from 1,300 men and women in their 70s who were monitored for 10 years. Each participant used a grasping instrument to test their handshaking ability. Through analysis of blood samples taken from the same cohort, the researchers also gathered information on DNA methylation, a process that can affect how molecules act in the body.

According to the survey, older people with reduced hand strength are associated with biologically older DNA. “Previous research,” the authors point out, “has shown that hand grip and grasping skills may be considered a risk factor for aging-related outcomes, but the true nature between the two was until now unclear.

The scientists thus discovered a strong correlation between grip strength and an individual’s biological age. “We are not yet sure of the reasons why methylation may be linked to premature mortality,” Peterson concludes, “further investigation will be needed to understand the association between grip strength, chronic disease, disability, and premature mortality.

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