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Original research article
Low eosinophil and low lymphocyte counts and the incidence of 12 cardiovascular diseases: a CALIBER cohort study
  1. Anoop Dinesh Shah1,2,
  2. Spiros Denaxas1,
  3. Owen Nicholas3,
  4. Aroon D Hingorani1,2 and
  5. Harry Hemingway1
  1. 1Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, UCL Institute of Health Informatics, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  3. 3National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research, UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anoop Dinesh Shah; anoop{at}


Background Eosinophil and lymphocyte counts are commonly performed in clinical practice. Previous studies provide conflicting evidence of association with cardiovascular diseases.

Methods We used linked primary care, hospitalisation, disease registry and mortality data in England (the CALIBER (CArdiovascular disease research using LInked Bespoke studies and Electronic health Records) programme). We included people aged 30 or older without cardiovascular disease at baseline, and used Cox models to estimate cause-specific HRs for the association of eosinophil or lymphocyte counts with the first occurrence of cardiovascular disease.

Results The cohort comprised 775 231 individuals, of whom 55 004 presented with cardiovascular disease over median follow-up 3.8 years. Over the first 6 months, there was a strong association of low eosinophil counts (<0.05 compared with 0.15–0.25×109/L) with heart failure (adjusted HR 2.05; 95% CI 1.72 to 2.43), unheralded coronary death (HR 1.94, 95% CI 1.40 to 2.69), ventricular arrhythmia/sudden cardiac death and subarachnoid haemorrhage, but not angina, non-fatal myocardial infarction, transient ischaemic attack, ischaemic stroke, haemorrhagic stroke, subarachnoid haemorrhage or abdominal aortic aneurysm. Low eosinophil count was inversely associated with peripheral arterial disease (HR 0.63, 95% CI 0.44 to 0.89). There were similar associations with low lymphocyte counts (<1.45 vs 1.85–2.15×109/L); adjusted HR over the first 6 months for heart failure was 2.25 (95% CI 1.90 to 2.67). Associations beyond the first 6 months were weaker.

Conclusions Low eosinophil counts and low lymphocyte counts in the general population are associated with increased short-term incidence of heart failure and coronary death.

Trial registration number NCT02014610; results.


This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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