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AARP The Magazine

5 Tests That Could Save Your Life

Surprising screenings that can pick up the early signs of illness

5. Open That Jar

What it detects: Likelihood of future disability

How it works: You might not think of grip strength as an important indicator of overall fitness. But low grip strength has consistently been associated with disability later in life, as well as with postoperative complications and premature death, according to Richard Bohannon of the University of Connecticut, whose review study on the subject was recently published in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. While grip strength on its own doesn't affect your ability to climb stairs, for instance, it's a marker that is correlated with walking ability.

What to do: Physical therapists use an inexpensive machine called a hand-grip dynamometer to analyze grip strength, but you can measure your grip strength in other ways, Bohannon says. Open a tight jar lid. Pick up a gallon of milk and carry it across the room. Lift a long-handled pan with one hand. If you can't do these tasks successfully, you need to build your overall fitness.

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