Research assistants Yasina Somani (l.) and Kristin Mayrand's (r.) seek people with high blood pressure for study.Research assistants Yasina Somani (l.) and Kristin Mayrand's (r.) seek people with high blood pressure for study.

Volunteers needed to test alternative hypertension treatment

UWindsor researchers are looking for volunteers to test the theory that the simple act of squeezing a digital hand-grip may provide relief for hypertension.

The research team is led by kinesiology researchers Cheri McGowan, Kevin Milne (BHK 1999), Kenji Kenno (MHK 1977) and research assistants Yasina Somani (MHK 2015) and Kristin Mayrand (Hon. BSc. 2013).  They are following up on their previous small-scale studies showing a drop in blood pressure for people who regularly squeeze an isometric hand-grip.

“It is like a programmable stress ball,” says Somani. “Over-time, squeezing this device at 30 per cent of your maximum force can lead to reductions in blood pressure.”

This large-scale study, supported by UWindsor Research Stimulus Fund and Schulich-Windsor Opportunity for Excellence (SWORP) Awards, needs 95 people who have blood pressure readings equal to or above 140/90 mmHg and who are taking blood pressure medication.

Participants must have permission from their doctor to participate and commit to 16 weeks of exercise.

Volunteers will exercise three times a week for the first 8 weeks of the study, 2 times a week at the University and once at home. For the next 8 weeks of the study, some will still exercise 3 times a week, while others will have their visits decrease for the remainder of the study.

Somani says hypertension is a serious problem for Canadians as it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and since there are often no symptoms, it can be a silent killer.

“One in five people in Canada have hypertension and it is the number one reason that people visit a physician,” says Somani. “Many people medicated for hypertension are not being treated to desired levels.”

Mayrand says the isometric hand-grip is endorsed by the American Heart Association but more research is needed in Canada before physicians can begin to prescribe it.

“We know little about the effects of isometric handgrip training on ambulatory blood pressure, a measure which accounts for fluctuations in blood pressure over a 24-hour period, and may be a better predictor of CVD risk,” says Mayrand.

“As part of this study we’ll check blood pressure around the clock with a monitor that sits on your belt.”

Somani recently completed her master’s degree in kinesiology and Mayrand is a second-year medical student at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry-Windsor Program.

“Our long-term goal is to implement this intervention into clinical practice in Canada and to make it a standard of care,” says Mayrand. “It is interesting for me to see the research perspective of medicine.”

The University of Windsor research team are carrying out the study in the PACR Lab in the Human Kinetics Building.

To participate in the study, contact the researchers by email at: or call 519-253-3000 extension 4979.

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