Changes in White Blood Cell Counts May Predict Increased Risk of Mortality in Older Women

The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 9 No. 3 • August 2006

Changes in White Blood Cell Counts May Predict Increased Risk of Mortality in Older Women

Inflammation tends to increase with age and is associated with many pathological processes of aging. One marker of systemic inflammation is an increase in total white blood cell count. Of course, it is normal for white blood cells to increase in response to the inflammatory processes induced by infection. To evaluate the relationship of total white blood cell counts and differential counts with mortality in older adults, researchers conducted a study on 624 community-dwelling women aged 65–101 who were part of the Women’s Health and Aging Study cohort.1 Those who had white blood cell counts above the normal range were excluded. The results showed that, after adjusting for age, race, body mass index, smoking, and education, those with baseline higher total white blood cell counts, higher neutrophil counts, or lower lymphocyte counts were independently associated with increased mortality. No significant associations of eosinophil, monocyte, or basophil counts with mortality were observed.

The authors note that data from a recent study of theirs from the Women’s Health and Aging Studies (WHAS) “have shown direct in vivo associations of total WBC [white blood cells] and specific differential counts with circulating IL-6 levels, the hallmark of the age-related inflammatory phenotype.” They also report that “[a] recent study of participants in the trial of clopidogrel versus aspirin in patients at risk of ischemic events (CAPRIE), including young male and female patients (aged 21 years and above), has demonstrated that baseline total WBC as well as neutrophil counts are independent predictors of recurrent ischemic events and vascular death. Data of 105 healthy older men from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) have shown that there is a significantly lower lymphocyte count within 3 years of death when compared with 5 or 10 years before death.” [Citations omitted from quotes]


  1. Leng et al. Baseline total and specific differential white blood cell counts and 5-year all-cause mortality in community-dwelling older women. Exp Gerontol 40:982-7 (2005).

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