White cell counts can be easily measured by inexpensive, widely available tests, raising the possibility of lowering the toll of heart disease fatalities, the leading cause of death among women in the United States.
“For years, researchers have suspected a link between elevated white blood cell count and heart attack,” notes JoAnn Manson, one of the study leaders and Elizabeth F. Brigham Professor of Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School. “The present study is the largest to test this association and provides the strongest evidence to date that WBC (white blood cell) count predicts the risk of heart attack.”
Manson, who is also chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, sums up their findings. “WBC count appears to be a very promising way to identify people at increased risk of heart disease. At this point, it may add information that physicians can use when evaluating a patient’s risk factors. With additional research, it may become one of the routine screening tests for heart disease.”