Inherited muscle strength predicts lower risk of diseases and premature mortality

Hereditary muscle strength and its relationship to morbidity

push-ups-up-exercise-man-muscles-endurance-shut Muscle strength, especially hand grip strength, can indicate an individual's physiological resources to protect against age-related diseases and disabilities

A study conducted at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä has revealed that a genetic predisposition for higher muscle strength not only predicts a longer lifespan but also lowers the risk for developing common diseases. The study, which is the most comprehensive international research on hereditary muscle strength and its relationship to morbidity, utilized the genome and health data of over 340,000 Finns, making it a significant milestone in the field of genetic research and health sciences.

Dr. Päivi Herranen, a doctoral researcher from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, emphasized the importance of muscle strength, particularly hand grip strength, as an indicator of an individual's physiological resources to protect against age-related diseases and disabilities, as well as their ability to cope with them. The study found that age-related loss of muscle strength is influenced not only by lifestyle but also by genetics, shedding light on the intricate interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental factors in determining health outcomes.

The research unveiled that individuals with a genetic predisposition for higher muscle strength have a slightly lower risk for common noncommunicable diseases and premature mortality. However, it did not predict better survival after acute adverse health events compared to the time before illness onset. Dr. Herranen noted, "It seems that a genetic predisposition for higher muscle strength reflects more on an individual's intrinsic ability to resist and protect oneself against pathological changes that occur during aging than the ability to recover or completely bounce back after severe adversity."

The genetic predisposition for muscle strength was defined by constructing a polygenic score for muscle strength, which summarizes the effects of hundreds of thousands of genetic variants into a single score. This approach enabled researchers to compare participants with exceptionally high or low genetic predispositions for muscle strength and investigate associations with inherited muscle strength and other phenotypes, particularly common diseases.

Dr. Herranen emphasized the uniqueness of the study population, stating, "In this study, we were able to utilize both genetic information and health outcomes from over 340,000 Finnish men and women. To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the association between a genetic predisposition for muscle strength and various diseases on this scale."

The study highlighted the potential use of information about genetic predisposition for muscle strength alongside traditional risk assessment in identifying individuals at particularly high risk of common diseases and health adversities. However, Dr. Herranen stressed the need for further research on the topic to understand how lifestyle factors, such as physical activity, modify an individual's intrinsic ability to resist diseases and whether their impact on health differs among individuals due to genetics.

The internationally unique FinnGen dataset, compiled through the collaboration of Finnish biobanks, provided the foundation for this groundbreaking research. The dataset consisted of 342,443 Finns who had given their consent and provided a biobank sample, representing a wide age range and gender distribution. The diagnoses selected for the study were based on the leading causes of death and the most significant noncommunicable diseases in Finland, including cardiometabolic, pulmonary, musculoskeletal, connective tissue diseases, falls, fractures, mental health, cognitive disorders, cancers, as well as overall mortality and mortality from cardiovascular diseases.

This study, which is the second publication of Dr. Päivi Herranen's doctoral thesis, is part of the GenActive project, funded by the Research Council of Finland and the Juho Vainio and Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg foundations. Led by Assistant Professor and Academy Research Fellow Elina Sillanpää, the research was conducted in collaboration with the Gerontology Research Center (GEREC), the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), and the FinnGen research project, marking a significant step forward in understanding the complex interplay between genetics and health outcomes.

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