Increasing evidence supports a role for inflammation in the development of atherosclerosis, thickening and hardening of the arteries, according to background information in the article. Measurement of a number of different molecules involved in inflammation has been proposed as a way to identify and monitor patients at risk for coronary heart disease. The authors state that white blood cell count is a stable, well-standardized, widely available and inexpensive measure of systemic inflammation.
Karen L Margolis, M.D., M.P.H., of the Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, and colleagues used data from a total of 72,242 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years who participated in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study (WHI-OS), to assess white blood cell (leukocyte) count as an independent predictor of cardiovascular events [for example, heart attack or stroke] and death from any cause. Women underwent screening which included collection of personal information, medical history, information about their previous history of cardiovascular (CVD) events or cancer, and blood collection at the beginning of the study. Follow-up was conducted by annual questionnaires, except in the third year when participants attended a clinical follow-up visit.
"Because of its large size and broad representation of women from across the United States, this cohort provides an opportunity to determine whether the association of white blood cell count with future cardiovascular events is present in postmenopausal women and to examine the independence of this association from other known CVD risk factors and biomarkers," the authors write. Other known C
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