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News and Research: Healthspan Genes

Article: Genetic risk factors have a substantial impact on healthy life years Nature Medicine, Sept. 2022

Overview: This new genetics study estimated the effects of genetic variants on DALYs (disability-adjusted life years). DALYs measure ‘lost healthy life years’ — or the opposite side of healthspan.

This Sept. 2022 publication shows that a common genetic variant in the LPA gene had the strongest effect on DALYs for an individual. Additionally, a combination of genetic variants that increased pain was also tied to reduced healthy years.

LPA – check for the lipoprotein(a) variant here.

Other genes that impacted healthy years included HLA genes, heart-related genes, and APOE (Alzheimer’s). Among the heart-related genes, NOS3 (nitric oxide synthase) and PCSK9 (LDL cholesterol levels) were top hits.

APOE – check Alzheimer’s risk here

NOS3 – check nitric oxide synthase here

PCSK9 – check for the LDL increasing PCSK9 variants here

Interestingly, a variant in the CHRNA5 gene also was statistically significant. The variant is linked to nicotine dependence, showing that people who are more susceptible to nicotine dependence are more likely to smoke more and longer.

Rare mutations, such as in cancer-related genes, were also considered. For example, carrying a BRCA1 mutation (breast cancer risk factor) was associated with a loss of 4 healthy years on average.

The study used data from the UK Biobank (400,000+ people) and the FinnGen (300,000+ people) biobank. So it is important to note that the participants were skewed toward European Caucasian background.[ref]

About the Author:
Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering from Colorado School of Mines and an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.