The health secrets your doctor can tell from your handshake

There are many things your handshake tells the world about you. But according to several new studies, it can also reveal a lot about your health.

In a study published last month in the British Medical Journal, scientists at the University of Glasgow found that doctors can predict your overall health by evaluating your grip strength as you shake hands. Specifically, they found that weaker grip strength in the more than half a million people between the ages of 40 and 69 they evaluated and followed over the years was associated with a higher risk of heart and lung disease and cancer (including colorectal, lung, and breast) as well as a higher risk of death from such diseases. And the younger the person, the more a weak handshake was predictive of some illnesses. Find out what else your handshake reveals about you.

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Signs you're headed for a heart attack
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Signs you're headed for a heart attack

You get angry over the littlest things

Tend to morph into the Hulk when you’re upset? Those fiery emotions can drastically increase your risk for a heart attack. Researchers at the University of Australia questioned 313 patients who had suffered suspected heart attacks about their anger levels before the onset of symptoms. They found that patients were 8.5 times more likely to have a heart attack in the two hours following an intense outburst of anger, defined as “very angry, body tense, clenching fists or teeth.” The more often you’re angry, the higher your chances for a heart attack. These 15 doctor-approved tips to prevent heart disease could save your life.

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You spend most of your time in front of a screen

Yes, that includes working on your computer. A study from the University College London reports that people who watch TV or work on a computer for four or more hours a day increase their risk of an event associated with cardiovascular disease, like a heart attack, by 125 percent. Long periods of sitting deplete the body’s supply of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that breaks down fat and prevents clogged arteries. If you spend most of your day plopped behind a desk, take a brief walk after every 20 minutes or try a standing desk. You can burn 30 percent more calories when you stand than when you sit.  Here are a cardiologist’s tips for sneaking in exercise.

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You log less than six hours of sleep each night

Many adults struggle to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but consistently missing that mark could be deadly. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health found that Japanese men who got less than six hours of sleep were five times more likely to have a heart attack than men who slept seven or eight hours a night. Another study from Jichi Medical School in Tochigi, Japan, found the same risk applied to Japanese women who got less than six hours of sleep. Learn how to prevent heart disease with these 30 simple tips.

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You live in a smoggy area

Smog is just as bad for your heart as it is for your lungs. Researchers used hourly air pollution measurements in South Boston to determine how exposure to particulate matter (small combustion particles that come from fuel burning and vehicle emissions) affected patients in this area who had heart attacks. They found that exposure to high concentrations of air pollution increased the likelihood of a heart attack by 48 percent in the two hours before patients first experienced heart attack symptoms. The risk went up to 69 percent when people were exposed to high levels of air pollution for 24 hours before the onset of symptoms. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s website to see how smog affects your neighborhood.

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You're divorced

Divorce can cause literal heartache. Researchers at the Duke University School of Medicine conducted an 18-year-study of nearly 16,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 80 who had been married at least once. Every two years, researchers assessed the participants’ marital status and overall health. Divorced women were 25 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those who stayed married. Women who had two or more divorces were 77 percent more likely to have a heart attack. As for the men, the risk of heart attack stayed the same regardless of whether they were married or divorced—at first. But if they divorced at least twice, their heart attack risk increased by 30 percent.

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It's Daylight Savings Time

When researchers examined three years of Michigan hospital records to track the number of heart attacks that required stent insertions, they found that the frequency of these procedures fluctuated when Daylight Saving Time started and ended. On the Monday after “springing ahead” an hour, there was an 24 percent increase in heart attacks. (However, on the Tuesday after “falling back,” there were 21 percent fewer daily heart attacks). Since the total heart attack counts for those weeks were not drastically different from other weeks, researchers determined that the time changes didn’t necessarily make the heart attacks happen, but rather made them likely to occur sooner than they otherwise would have. This is probably due to disrupted sleep-wake cycles and increased stress at the start of a new week of work. Here are tricks to make the Daylight Saving switch less toxic to your heart.

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You live in an area with extreme temperatures

Studies show that both extreme cold and extreme heat can put people at risk for heart attacks. Using data from cardiac patients in the Worcester Heart Attack Study, scientists found that exposure to temperatures lower than 17º F in the two days prior to a heart attack increased patients’ risk by 36 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, British researchers found that once the temperature reaches 68º F, each increase of 1.8º F increased the risk of heart attack by 2 percent over the next one to six hours. On the first day of a hot spell, that risk jumps up to 6.5 percent per 1.8º F increase. Learn what heart doctors do to protect their own hearts.

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Your handgrip can also reveal how healthy your brain is, according to scientists from several highly regarded European institutions, writing in another recent study out of the United Kingdom. The findings, based on data involving 475,397 people and published in the Journal of Psychoses and Related Brain Disorders, showed that stronger handshakes predicted better brain functioning across the board, according to EurekaAlert. Testing included reaction speed, logical problem solving, and multiple different tests of memory, and the association between hand grip and brain function was consistent at all ages.

“When taking multiple factors into account such as age, gender, body weight, and education, our study confirms that people who are stronger do indeed tend to have better functioning brains,” study co-author Joseph Firth, PhD, Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University and Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Manchester, told EurekaAlert. “There is a clear connection between muscular strength and brain health,” Dr. Firth concludes. Pay attention to these signs your brain is aging faster than you.

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10 wildly overinflated hospital expenses
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10 wildly overinflated hospital expenses

Tylenol

Charge to patient: $15 per individual pill, for a total of $345 during average patient stay

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Patient belonging bag

Like a grocery bag, to hold your personal items.

Charge to patient: $8

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Box of tissues

Sometimes listed as “mucus recovery system,” a single tissue box in a hospital costs $8.

Charge to patient: $8

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Gloves

Charge to patient: $53 per non-sterile pair (sterile are higher), for a total of $5,141 during average patient stay.

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Cup medicine

Cost is for the plastic cup used to administer medicine, not the actual medicine inside it.

Charge to patient, per cup: $10, for a total of $440 during average patient stay

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Marking pen

To mark the body for surgery.

Charge to patient: $17.50

Blood pressure cuff

Use of blood pressure cuff in a hospital costs about $20.

Charge to patient: $20

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Oral administration fee

Charge for a nurse to hand you medicine taken by mouth.

Charge to patient: $6.25 per instance, for a total of $87.50 during average patient stay

Headlight

Cost of use of the overhead light in an operating room.

Charge to patient: $93.50

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Swabs, alcohol

Charge to patient: $23 per swab, for a total of $322 during average patient stay

Luckily, though, you don't just have to helplessly accept these high hospital costs. Check out these tips to help lower your hospital costs.

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Can we get healthier by developing a better handshake? Dr. Firth’s research group had already determined in the course of other studies that aerobic exercise can improve brain health, and now they will conduct further studies to determine if we can make our brains healthier by doing things to strengthen our muscles. That said, the results of a 2015 study by scientists out of the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, published in The Lancet, suggests that we can improve our chances of surviving chronic medical problems if we develop more muscle strength. In that study, the researchers measured grip strength (using a device called a “dynamometer”) in nearly 140,000 adults in 17 countries and followed their health for an average of four years.

“Interestingly, grip strength was a better predictor of death or cardiovascular disease than blood pressure,” according to Howard LeWine, MD, writing for the Harvard Health Blog.

Check out these other signs people may be using to evaluate you, which you probably never thought about until now!

The post The Health Secrets Your Doctor Can Tell from Your Handshake appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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