Blood tests and women's heart risks

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 4, 2005

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A white blood cell count might predict cardiovascular events and risk of death in postmenopausal women who are not identified by traditional risk factors, according to an article in the March 14 Archives of Internal Medicine.

As evidence builds that inflammation plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis, the study authors note that white blood cell count is a stable, well-standardized, widely available and inexpensive measure of systemic inflammation.

Physicians also can determine inflammation levels by using a more costly C-reactive protein test.

The researchers used data from 72,242 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 who participated in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study to assess white blood cell count as an independent predictor of cardiovascular events and death from any cause.

The women were divided into four levels or quartiles, with the first quartile representing women with the lowest level of white blood cells and the fourth quartile representing women with the highest level. Women in the fourth quartile had a doubled risk of death from coronary heart disease compared with women in the first quartile after statistical adjustment for other risk factors.

The researchers recommend additional studies to assess the effectiveness of risk reduction in patients with high levels of white blood cells.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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