Researchers discover one reason men have heart failure

ROANOKE, Va. – In a new University of Virginia study, researchers discovered that when men lose their Y chromosomes in certain cells, it can lead to scarring, which may lead to heart failure.

Unlike women, who have two X chromosomes, men have an X and a Y. Doctors found that a specific gene inside the Y chromosome, which when lost, can lead to a shorter lifespan and even heart failure.

“Approximately 40% of men by age 70 have appreciably lost their Y chromosome, and that’s been known for actually quite a while. But, we were the ones to provide the first evidence to show that that’s leading to shortened lifespan and certain types of diseases. And so, what we study is the effects of Y chromosome loss in man on cardiovascular disease processes,” said University of Virginia Professor Kenneth Walsh.

Walsh said his research paper came out in the last couple of weeks and delved into the Y chromosome and how when lost it can affect men. He said that he conducted the study for the past couple of years. He studied mice and he also looked at existing databases to analyze people with heart failure.

Heart disease was the leading cause of death in Virginia in 2021, according to the CDC. One type of heart disease that is a serious problem is heart failure, which is when your heart doesn’t pump enough blood and oxygen to support your body.

According to data from the state’s Department of Health, in 2022 in Alleghany County, almost 300 people were hospitalized with heart failure. In Bedford County that same year, more than 1400 people were hospitalized. More than 1,200 were hospitalized in Montgomery County. More than 800 in Pittsylvania County had heart failure in 2022. In Roanoke County, more than 1,900 people were hospitalized, and in Roanoke City, more than 3,000 people were hospitalized with heart failure.

Doctors said heart failure is more common in men. However, in Southwest Virginia that isn’t always the case.

In 2022, more women were hospitalized with heart failure than men in Alleghany and Pittsylvania Counties, while there was only a slight separation in Roanoke County and Roanoke City.

Bedford and Montgomery Counties saw more men hospitalized. The average split between men and women in our area sits between 48 to 55%, meaning the numbers are about even.

Walsh hopes through his study that the effects of heart failure can be treated.

“Presumably, if we understand how this gene is functioning, people could think about maybe designing drugs that would target this gene and maybe reverse some of the fibrosis, this fibrotic effect, that’s causing the stiffness of the heart and reverse this condition,” said Walsh.

About the Author

Keshia Lynn is a Multimedia Journalist for WSLS. She was born and raised in Maryland and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law and Society from American University and a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

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