Monday, February 20, 2012

Hand Strength and Walking Speed Correlates to Fewer Strokes (and a stronger spleen?)

Surfing the internet health news is actually a pretty interesting way to spend a morning. Everything from how our culture sabotages children's health to a controversy over people taking anti-depressant drugs for grief to this gem of a research study that I found quite interesting from a Chinese medical point of view.

In this study, more than 2,400 men and women with an average age of 62 underwent tests for walking speed, hand grip strength and cognitive function. Brain imaging studies were also performed. During the follow-up period of up to 11 years, 34 people developed dementia and 70 people had a stroke. The study found people with a slower walking speed in middle age were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia compared to people with faster walking speed.

Also, strength appears predictive among older individuals as stronger hand grip strength was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) in people over age 65.

So how can we interpret these results from a Chinese medical point of view? I was immediately reminded of some statements of fact from Bob's book by that title, " the elderly, blame the spleen," and "when the qi is strong, it is able to control the blood and prevent its spillage externally from the blood vessels." If we remember the various functions of the spleen qi, these include the strength of the muscles and the ability to feel energetic, strong, and lively, manifesting as the benefits of healthy post-natal engenderment of qi and blood.

Here is a wonderful quote that describes exactly what this research showed from Aging and Blood Stasis: A New TCM Approach to Geriatics, a book by Dr. Yan De-xin, one of the most famous and effective geriatric medicine specialists in China.

The four limbs receive their qi from the stomach. Sometimes, the spleen qi does not reach the channels due to a disorder of the spleen. As a result,it cannot move the fluids and humors of the stomach. The four limbs thus do not obtain qi from water and grain. Hence, the qi is gradually weakened. The circulation of the [blood] vessels is not smooth, and the sinews, bones, and muscles all lack the qi to exist; so they cannot function well.

As a clinician, what this suggests to me is the importance of doing anything I can to help my patients maintain the strength and health of their spleens, whether this be through acupuncture, herbal supplementation, tuina, dietary therapy, and/or exercise suggestions. And now we have a Western medical research study that supports the importance of these efforts!

This research also corroborates the power of Miriam Lee's Great Ten Needles approach to treatment and her belief in Li Dong-yuan's idea that truly accurate five-phase theory would be visualized as a cross, with the spleen and stomach right in the middle of both health and disease in our many of our patients.

Have a great , everyone.