and the strength of our handshaking
The many positive factors
favoring (or the negative ones that deteriorate) our life expectancy may be
condensed into three categories: genes, diet and lifestyle. We have very little
control over the first group, our genetic 'karma', the most critical and
influential of the three sets. The average age of our two parents at death is
the best predictor of how long we might live. And sex (male or female, not
frequency), gives to women a seven years advantage from the very moment of
fertilization when we are only one cell. Nature, right there, discriminates us,
men, and there is no interest group protesting. To whom shall we complain?
It is in the quality of
our food and the style of our life where the possible opportunities to add
calendars to our vital parable appear. In both areas, the number of published
books, seminars and consultants that sell 'eternal youth' is outrageous and
growing. And it is in the lifestyle area, which include "the strength of
our handshaking” where this note fits.
Recent research has
concluded that there is a strong relationship between the strength of people’s
grip of and their expected remaining life: The weaker the grip, the higher the
risk of dying soon, mainly from cardiovascular problems. The study was carried
out by McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, under the direction of Dr.
Darryl P Leong.
Given the broad coverage
of this work (140,000 people between 35 and 70 years, in seventeen countries),
the reliability of this conclusion must be quite high. Researchers tracked each
of the volunteers for about four years, recording deaths as they occurred and
the associated causes.
The strength of the hand
grips was obtained with portable devices, specially designed for the study, and
the overall average of all measurements was equivalent to the force needed to
hold a weight of thirty kilograms. In the analysis of the results, each
reduction of five kilograms in the 'weight' represented a 17% increase in the
risk of death close. (We write 'kilograms' for simplicity; ‘force’ is actually
measured in 'newtons'. Do you remember your physics lessons?)
"Grip strength could
be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual's risk of death and
cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Leong. And the magazine 'The Economist'
magazine comments that "a flaccid handshake may be a warning that all is
Of course the formalities of
encounters and farewells are just one of the many activities in which we apply hand grips. McMaster University's study says that further research is needed
to determine whether physical exercising to strengthen the muscles of the arm
would increase life expectancy, as it happens when we improve eating habits, we
start going to the gym five times a week, or we practice meditation daily. If
such studies confirm that a strong fist and, consequently, a firm handshake
indeed stretch our years on Earth, almost immediately hundreds of books,
courses and speakers will appear, wanting to sell methods for "The Way of
Greeting to Reach a Long Life."
As hand shaking has no
science behind and requires no measuring, while such things happen, we have
nothing to lose in greeting with more energy, when we meet old acquaintances or
we are introduced to new people, from today on. Perhaps this habit is not going
to lengthen the years that our genes have already scheduled for us but, at
least, those to whom we said goodbye with a firm handshake will not have the
chance to taunt, behind our back, saying after we leave the group: "This weakling fool will not get to next
Author of ‘Inner Harmony through Mindfulness Meditation’
Atlanta, May 29, 2015
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