An increased risk of heart disease can be passed on to boys by their fathers who have a common genetic variant, researchers have found.
The danger does not affect girls because it lies in a particular version of the male Y chromosome which is only present in men.
The team led by Dr Fadi J Charchar, of the University of Ballarat’s school of science and engineering in Victoria, Australia, published its findings online in The Lancet.
The study investigated the role of the Y chromosome in explaining why men are more commonly affected by coronary artery disease (CAD) than women and why it typically develops about a decade earlier in men.
The scientists identified a version of the chromosome carried by between 15% to 20% of British men. They linked it to a 50% higher chance of CAD, a risk factor which it is believed may be linked to the chromosome’s influence on the immune system and inflammation.
Dr Charchar and colleagues studied data from more than 3,000 men taking part in three heart investigations - the British Heart Foundation Family Heart Study, the Cardiogenics Study, and the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study.
They said DNA analysis revealed that 90% of the men carried one of two common versions of the Y chromosomes, haplogroup I and haplogroup R1b1b2. And men in the haplogroup I category had a 50% higher risk of CAD, which can lead to heart attacks, compared with other men.