Neutrophil counts and cardiovascular disease

Eur Heart J. 2023 Dec 14;44(47):4953-4964. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehad649.


Background and aims: Anti-inflammatory trials have shown considerable benefits for cardiovascular disease. High neutrophil counts, an easily accessible inflammation biomarker, are associated with atherosclerosis in experimental studies. This study aimed to investigate the associations between neutrophil counts and risk of nine cardiovascular endpoints using observational and genetic approaches.

Methods: Observational studies were conducted in the Copenhagen General Population Study (n = 101 730). Genetic studies were firstly performed using one-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) with individual-level data from the UK Biobank (n = 365 913); secondly, two-sample MR analyses were performed using summary-level data from the Blood Cell Consortium (n = 563 085). Outcomes included ischaemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, peripheral arterial disease, ischaemic cerebrovascular disease, ischaemic stroke, vascular-related dementia, vascular dementia, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation.

Results: Observational analyses showed associations between high neutrophil counts with high risks of all outcomes. In the UK Biobank, odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) per 1-SD higher genetically predicted neutrophil counts were 1.15 (1.08, 1.21) for ischaemic heart disease, 1.22 (1.12, 1.34) for myocardial infarction, and 1.19 (1.04, 1.36) for peripheral arterial disease; similar results were observed in men and women separately. In two-sample MR, corresponding estimates were 1.14 (1.05, 1.23) for ischaemic heart disease and 1.11 (1.02, 1.20) for myocardial infarction; multiple sensitivity analyses showed consistent results. No robust associations in two-sample MR analyses were found for other types of leucocytes.

Conclusions: Observational and genetically determined high neutrophil counts were associated with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, supporting that high blood neutrophil counts is a causal risk factor for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Cardiovascular disease; Inflammation; Neutrophil.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis* / complications
  • Brain Ischemia* / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / genetics
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / complications
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Myocardial Infarction* / epidemiology
  • Myocardial Ischemia* / complications
  • Neutrophils
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease* / complications
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease* / epidemiology
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease* / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Stroke* / epidemiology