November 21, 2012
Low Muscular Strength An Emerging Risk Factor For Major Causes Of Death In Young Adulthood
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
According to new findings published in the British Medical Journal, low muscle strength in adolescence is associated with a greater risk of early death.
The study authors tracked more than one million Swedish male adolescents aged 16 to 19 years old for a 24 year period.
During the study period, participants underwent three reliable muscular strength tests at the start of the study, including knee extension strength, handgrip strength and elbow flexion strength. BMI and blood pressure were also measured during the period.
The team found that 2.3 percent of the group died during the follow-up period, with suicide being the most common cause of death, followed by cancer.
Researchers found that high muscular strength was associated with a 20 to 35 percent lower risk of early death from any cause, and also from cardiovascular diseases, independently or BMI or blood pressure.
Stronger adolescents had a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of early death from suicide, and were up to 65 percent less likely to have any psychiatric diagnosis, such as schizophrenia and mood disorders.
The study authors said results from the study suggest that physically weaker individuals might be more mentally vulnerable.
They say that low muscular strength in adolescents "is an emerging risk factor for major causes of death in young adulthood, such as suicide and cardiovascular diseases." They added that the effect of these associations is similar to classic risk factors like body mass index and blood pressure.
Researchers suggest that muscular strength tests could be assessed with good reliability in most places, including clinical settings, schools and workplaces.
"People at increased risk of long term mortality, because of lower muscular strength, should be encouraged to engage in exercise programs and other forms of physical activity," the authors wrote.
The effect of low muscle strength is similar to well established risk factors for early death like being overweight or having high blood pressure. The authors suggest young people engage in regular physical activity to help boost their muscular fitness.
"The benefits of being physically active at any age are well established with studies showing it can prevent children from developing diseases later on in life, as well as improving their concentration at school, their overall mental health and well-being," a spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation told BBC.
Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the study did not show doing more exercise would necessarily prolong your life.
"Sadly the trials of an intervention to increase exercise have not shown notable benefits, though that does not discourage me and many others from exercising," Evans told BBC News.