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Ann Epidemiol. 2011 Oct;21(10):739-48. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2011.06.005. Epub 2011 Jul 23.

White blood cell count, C-reactive protein, and incident heart failure in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study.

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Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA.



To test the hypothesis that inflammation measured by white blood cell count (WBC) and C-reactive protein (CRP) is associated positively with incident heart failure (HF).


Using the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, we conducted separate Cox proportional hazards regression analyses for WBC (measured 1987-1989) and CRP (measured 1996-1998) in relation to subsequent heart failure occurrence. A total of 14,485 and 9,978 individuals were included in the WBC and CRP analyses, respectively.


There were 1647 participants that developed HF during follow-up after WBC assessment and 613 developed HF after CRP assessment. After adjustment for demographic variables and traditional HF risk factors, the hazard ratio (95% confidence interval) for incident HF across quintiles of WBC was 1.0, 1.10 (0.9-1.34), 1.27 (1.05-1.53), 1.44 (1.19-1.74), and 1.62 (1.34-1.96), p trend < .001; hazard ratio across quintiles of CRP was 1.0, 1.03 (0.68-1.55), 0.99 (0.66-1.51), 1.40 (0.94-2.09), and 1.70 (1.14-2.53), p trend .002. Granulocytes appeared to drive the relation between WBCs and heart failure (hazard ratios across quintiles: 1.0, 0.93 [0.76-1.15], 1.26 [1.04-1.53], 1.67 [1.39-2.01], and 2.19 [1.83-2.61], p trend < .0001), whereas lymphocytes or monocytes were not related.


Greater levels of WBC (especially granulocytes) and CRP are associated with increased risk of heart failure in middle-aged adults, independent of traditional risk factors.

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