Y Chromosome Can Raise Heart Disease Risk by 50 Percent
Men tend to get coronary artery disease much earlier than do women. For some men, the reason for that might be in part because of their fathers—and their father’s father—according to a new study, published online Wednesday in The Lancet.
The study analyzed data from 3,233 unrelated white men enrolled in previous U.K. studies. From this information, the researchers took a close look at genetic markers on the Y chromosome, which is passed on from father to son. They found that 15 to 20 percent of the men fell into one of the 13 ancient ancestry branches known as haplogroup I.
Men in this haplogroup, who all showed a common variant on the Y chromosome, were 50 percent more likely to have coronary artery disease than those without it—even when age, body mass, cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking and other risk factors were taken into account. The genetic link is not entirely surprising, given that heart disease has been known to run in families, but the finding adds support to previously observed trends—and insights into additional lines of research.
The finding follows well-described geographic distribution of coronary artery disease. Haplogroup I has been traced back to hunter-gatherers who arrived in Europe from the Middle East some 25,000 years ago and who today remain more prevalent in the northern areas of western Europe, where incidence of coronary artery disease is still higher than it is in the south—where the haplogroup R1b1b2 is more common.