Why men live shorter than women depends on many factors. However, scientists presented the results of a study that show how important the role of the male Y chromosome may be. Specifically, it is about its loss, which occurs with age.
Life expectancy varies between men and women and can depend on many variables. However, the fact is that in many countries women live longer than men. Scientists noticed an interesting relationship. Previously, these differences were explained by, among other things, different genes, now researchers have looked at it even more closely. It is about the phenomenon of loss of the Y chromosome in men – it happens as the body ages. However, it should be remembered that the length of our life depends largely on us – whether we take proper care of our health.
Why do men live shorter than women? A disappearing chromosome is to blame
Humans have a pair of sex chromosomes. Male people at birth have X and Y chromosomes, while female people at birth have two X chromosomes. Scientists “have taken a closer look” at the essence of the Y chromosome, which is found only in men. In recent research, they have shown how important the role of the disappearing Y chromosome in men can be. The research may therefore have important implications for understanding men’s health in the future.
“Especially after the age of 60, men die earlier than women. It’s as if they were biologically aging faster,” said Dr. Kenneth Walsh, director of UVA’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Center for Cardiovascular Research (University of Virginia). Research conducted by an international team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Uppsala University has shown that the loss of the Y chromosome in men as they age causes damage to the heart muscle and may lead to heart failure. As a consequence, earlier death may occur. These results may therefore help explain why men die, on average, several years earlier than women.
Male lifespan and Y chromosome loss
Y chromosome loss is estimated to affect 40 percent of people in their seventies and more than half of people in their nineties. This loss occurs mainly in cells that undergo rapid turnover, such as blood cells. However, this condition is not associated with lower testosterone levels in men as the body ages.
The study showed that male mice transplanted with bone marrow lacking the Y chromosome showed increased mortality and age-related pathologies, including decreased heart function. “It has been questioned whether Y chromosome loss is an indicator of biological aging or whether it has a direct impact on men’s health,” Dr. Walsh said. “The latest research provides strong evidence that the effect is direct,” the researcher explained.
Can the loss of the Y chromosome be prevented?
The new research is considered the first “hard evidence” that the loss of the Y chromosome directly causes harmful effects on men’s health. However, scientists have previously observed that men who have a loss of the Y chromosome are more likely to die at a younger age and develop age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
It is still too early to say what men should do to protect against Y chromosome loss or mitigate its effects. However, it is known that smoking increases this risk. According to scientists, the new research is probably only the “tip of the iceberg” in understanding the role of Y chromosome loss in the aging process of men and the occurrence of certain diseases.