The Genetic Link Between Men and Heart Disease

Male predisposition to heart disease passed from father to son

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Men may be at an added genetic risk of developing heart disease. That's because the Y chromosome, a portion of DNA that only men have, appears to play a role in inheriting coronary artery disease.

The common heart condition, which occurs when blood vessels to the heart narrow, may be passed down from father to son.

"Talk to your doctor about your risk for coronary artery disease."

Dr. Maciej Tomaszewski, principal investigator and a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Leicester's department of cardiovascular sciences, said he was excited about the finding that includes having a Y chromosome as a genetic susceptibility for coronary artery disease.

He noted that the chromosome appears to play a role linked to the cardiovascular system beyond its traditional role as a marker of gender.

During the four-year study called Inheritance of Coronary Artery Disease in Men: An Analysis of the Role of the Y Chromosome, researchers analyzed DNA from more than 3,000 men that had participated in the British Heart Foundation Family Heart Study or the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study.

Investigators found that 90 percent of Y chromosomes belonged to one of two major groups: either haplogroup I or haplogroup R1b1b2.

Men carrying a Y chromosome from haplogroup I were at a 50 percent higher risk of developing coronary artery disease compared to men without a chromosome from this grouping. This was independent of other traditional risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol or smoking.

Investigators suspect these men may be at an increased risk because this type of grouping influences the immune system and inflammation. Dr. Tomaszewski said further analyzing would be needed to pinpoint specific genes and gene variants that cause this association.

The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation, was recently published in journal The Lancet.

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Review Date: 
February 9, 2012
Last Updated:
February 10, 2012