A cheap, easy way to identify older women at risk for CVD?

June 1, 2005

By providing a measure of systemic inflammation, white blood cell (WBC) count may be a stable, well-standardized, widely available, and inexpensive way to independently predict cardiovascular events and death in postmenopausal women, according to findings from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.

By providing a measure of systemic inflammation, white blood cell (WBC) count may be a stable, well-standardized, widely available, and inexpensive way to independently predict cardiovascular events and death in postmenopausal women, according to findings from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.

The prospective cohort study-which was the first to assess WBC count as a predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events in healthy women while controlling for C-reactive protein (CRP)-involved 40 US clinical centers and over 72,000 postmenopausal women free of CVD and cancer at baseline. The researchers found that women with a WBC count greater than 6.7 × 109 cells/L were more than twice as likely to die of coronary heart disease (CHD) as women with a WBC count of 2.5–4.7 × 109 cells/L (hazard ratio 2.36; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.51–3.68). In addition, they had a 40% higher risk for nonfatal myocardial infarction, a 46% higher risk for stroke, and a 50% higher risk for total mortality.

The results demonstrate that WBC count is an independent predictor of CHD risk and may help pinpoint high-risk women who are not currently being identified with more traditional CVD risk factors.