Background: Measures of handgrip strength may show promise for detecting cognitive erosion during aging.
Objective: To determine the associations between lower handgrip strength and poorer cognitive functioning for aging Americans.
Methods: There were 13,828 participants aged at least 50 years from the 2006 wave of the Health and Retirement Study included and followed biennially for 8 years. Handgrip strength was assessed with a hand-held dynamometer and cognitive functioning was assessed with a modified version of the Mini-Mental State Examination. Participants aged <65 years with scores 7- 11 had a mild cognitive impairment, ≤6 had a severe cognitive impairment, and ≤11 had any cognitive impairment. Respondents aged ≥65 years with scores 8- 10 had a mild cognitive impairment, ≤7 had a severe cognitive impairment, and ≤10 had any cognitive impairment. Separate covariate-adjusted multilevel logistic models examined the associations between lower handgrip strength and any or severe cognitive impairment. A multilevel ordered logit model analyzed the association between lower handgrip strength and poorer cognitive functioning.
Results: Every 5-kg lower handgrip strength was associated with 1.10 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.04, 1.15) and 1.18 (CI: 1.04, 1.32) greater odds for any and severe cognitive impairment, respectively. Similarly, every 5-kg lower handgrip strength was associated with 1.10 (CI: 1.05, 1.14) greater odds for poorer cognitive functioning.
Conclusions: Measurement of handgrip strength is a simple, risk-stratifying method for helping healthcare providers determine poorer cognitive functioning. Interventions aiming to prevent or delay cognitive dysfunction should also implement measures of handgrip strength as an assessment tool for determining efficacy.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; cognition; dementia; frailty; geriatrics; muscle strength; muscle weakness.