You probably know many facts about your personal health. You know your blood pressure, your weight, maybe even your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. All of them can give a good picture of your general health.
But I bet you didn’t know that something you may do everyday can tell just as much, or more, about your health than all those numbers. In fact, it can even predict how well you’ll age and maybe even how long you’ll live. And these secrets lie right in your hand. Intrigued? Read on…
Your Handshake Can Tell How Well You’ll Age
Traditionally, a handshake is a gesture of welcoming goodwill towards someone. But did you know that it also conveys secret messages? It’s true. Psychologists and politicians alike have studied handshakes for the power, timidity, confidence, aggression, that they convey.
But lately, researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have begun to study them for another secret they carry – how well you might age. These scientists at the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IASA) say that the strength of your handshake – your grip – can tell your real age. It can also predict how long you might live.
How can they tell all that just by your hand? Do they employ a group of palm readers who read the longevity lines in your palm? No, nothing as esoteric as that. What they do have are a group of researchers who claim that your handshake actually corresponds to actual markers of aging.
Those markers include overall strength, cognitive decline, disability, what your chances are of recovering from a hospital stay and future mortality. Hand grip is something that can be measured with a device called a dynamometer. The data is starting to be collected on aging surveys around the world. It’s then correlated to other factors of aging as well as socioeconomic factors. The results are used to compare groups of people of different ages.
For example, a 65-year-old with a high school education may have the same strength of hand grasp as a 70-year-old with some college. The hand grasp data then correlates that their ages are actually equivalent. But it also means that the 65-year-old is aging 5 years faster due to a lower education.
In addition, according to hand grip strength, people who had higher education levels felt, and behaved, years younger than their age.
In contrast, hand grasp research carried out in Sweden on males entering military service revealed some troubling results. Those with weaker hand grip strengths were more likely to die younger, have heart disease, are at higher risk for suicide and are more likely to suffer from depression and other psychological problems.
Other research data compiled by the Medical Research Council found that those with the weakest handshakes were 70% more likely to die faster than those with the strongest handshakes.
The Stony Brook researchers say that just looking at the number of years someone has lived does not tell how fast, or how well, they’re aging. By using new personal characteristic factors – the hand grasp is one – they feel they can assess true age better. Other factors include personal health, disability status, and social factors.
So what does this mean for you? Can you improve your handshake grasp to decrease the speed, quality of which you age? Yes, you can. Here’s how.
Improve Your Handshake To Feel/Age Better
As the Stony Brook researchers found, there are several factors that coincide with a stronger handshake. The stronger the handshake, the more slowly someone is aging. Confidence is one factor that relates to feeling younger, stronger and aging more slowly.
In addition, education level, say the researchers, is closely tied to how young someone feels and how fast they are aging. So, if you’d feel more confident with a higher education level, then perhaps pursuing that college degree – or even just taking a few classes – can also slow down your aging.
Weakness and/or timidity are other factors. As noted in the Sweden study, if you have a low self-esteem, you’re going to convey it in your handshake. Your low self esteem affects your mental health – leading to depression and other psychosocial issues. In addition, it also affects your physical health as well.
Low self esteem can cause chronic stress which keeps stress hormones, like cortisol, chronically elevated. Your heart health, as well as the rest of you, can be severely undermined by constantly elevated cortisol levels. These set off inflammation in your body. As a result, illness, aging, and shorter lifespan follow.
So, getting rid of the chronic stress caused by low-self esteem can help you age more slowly and stay healthy longer. You can start to rebuild low self-esteem through a “personal improvement” program. This can include:
1. Weight loss
2. Appearance enhancement
3. Changing jobs
4. Finding something you enjoy doing on a regular basis
When your self-esteem improves, your stress levels decrease, your health improves, you feel happier, and younger. As a result, your confidence – revealed in your handshake – improves. You’re no longer that weak, timid person with the unconfident handshake. People start reacting to you more positively in social situations.
Physical strength is also conveyed in your handshake and is also a marker for aging. If shaking someone’s hand causes you to nearly fall over, or hurts, it’s time to work on building your strength. Improving your physical strength can help you age better in the following ways:
1. It builds muscle mass that helps you maintain balance as you get older.
2. It gives you the ability to do your own activities of daily living which helps you stay independent.
Work on building physical strength through weight training, agility and flexibility exercise (see this site under Fitness). In addition, regular aerobic exercise helps build endurance of your lungs and heart. It also boosts oxygen levels to rejuvenate brain cells. One significant marker of aging is how much oxygen you’re able to intake.
You can even practice improving your handshake itself to convey a stronger, more confident you. This can improve your social relationships and even help you land a better, higher paying job. Those 2 things alone, say researchers, can boost your mental health, happiness and improve your health.
In a recent article in Forbes magazine, a Fortune 500 CEO revealed that they always gave the job to the candidate with the stronger, more confident handshake. Here are some tips from Forbes to improve what your handshake says about you:
1. Always rise to shake someone’s hand.
2. Stay neutral. An upward facing palm handshake says “I’m dominating you”. A downward facing palm says, “I’m submissive to you.” You don’t want to say either.
3. Moderate your grip. Squeeze firmly but not so hard they wince. Don’t give them a limp fish handshake either that says “disinterest”.
4. No politician’s handshakes. This is the 2 handed, hand holding theirs, or hand covering theirs, handshake.
A handshake is part of your personal body language that can say a lot about your health, age, state of mind, etc. To age better, live longer and more healthy, it’s important to feel good about yourself. Of all the self-improvement methods out there, improving your handshake is one thing you can do simply and easily.
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.
New Tool To Measure the Speed of Aging: Your Handshake, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507211411.htm
Why Your Handshake Matters (How To Get It Right) http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2012/07/19/why-your-handshake-matters-and-how-to-get-it-right/
What Your Handshake Says About You, http://lifestyle.msn.co.nz/nzmenslifestyle/intheknow/8241714/what-your-handshake-says-about-you