A U-shaped relationship between haematocrit and mortality in a large prospective cohort study
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BACKGROUND: Only a limited number of studies have investigated the correlation between haematocrit (HCT) and mortality in the general population, and few of those studies have had data on a wide range of low and high levels of HCT. We investigated the association between baseline HCT and mortality in a prospective cohort study of 49,983 adult subjects in Iran with a broad spectrum of HCT values. METHODS: Data on socio-demographic and life-style factors, past medical history, and levels of HCT were collected at enrollment. During a mean follow-up of 5 years (follow-up success rate ~99%), 2262 deaths were reported. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate hazard ratios and corresponding 95% confidence intervals. RESULTS: There was a U-shaped relationship between categories of HCT and mortality in both sexes: both low and high levels of HCT were associated with increased overall mortality and mortality from cardiovascular disease. The U-shaped relationship persisted after several sensitivity analyses were done, including analyses restricted to non-smokers and non-users of opium; analyses excluding deaths from accidents and other external causes as well as deaths of persons with self-reported ischemic heart disease at the baseline interview for the study; and analyses excluding the first 2 years of follow-up. Self-reported past medical history and lack of data about lipids and other cellular blood components were the major limitations of the study. CONCLUSIONS: Low and high levels of HCT are associated with increased mortality in the general population. The findings in the present study can be of particular importance for low- and middle-income countries in which a substantial proportion of the population lives with suboptimal levels of HCT.
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