We all have one and science suggests our blood type can make a difference when it comes to it.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at the surface, but little variations run through your veins every second of every day that classify your blood into one of these groups: A +, A-, B +, B-, O-, O +, AB + and AB-. Unless you’ve donated blood, had a transfusion, or discovered during pregnancy, perhaps you’ve never thought twice about your blood type and what it means for your health.
Ongoing research on the blood group suggests it may be more important than we give it credit, at least when assessing the risk for certain health conditions, particularly. These invisible differences in blood can give some people an edge in warding off cardiovascular problems and can leave others more susceptible.
What does blood group mean and how are they different?
The letters A, B and O represent various forms of the ABO gene, which program our blood cells differently to form different blood groups. If you have type AB blood, for example, your body is programmed to make antigens A and B on red blood cells. A person with type O blood does not produce antigens.
Blood is said to be “positive” or “negative” depending on whether there are proteins in the red blood cells. If your blood has protein, you are Rhesus, or Rh, positive.
People with type O blood are considered “universal donors” because their blood has no antigens or proteins, meaning anyone’s body will be able to accept it in an emergency.
But why are there different blood groups? Researchers don’t know this completely, but factors like the origin of someone’s ancestors and past infections that spurred protective mutations in the blood may have contributed to the diversity, according to Dr. Douglas Guggenheim, a hematologist at Penn Medicine. People with type O blood can get cholera, for example, while people with type A or B blood may be more likely to have blood clotting problems. While our blood cannot keep up with the different biological or viral threats that circulate in real time, it may reflect what has happened in the past.
“In short, it’s almost as if the body has evolved around its environment to protect it in the best possible way,” Guggenheim said.
The blood groups most at risk for heart disease
According to the American Heart Association, people with type A, type B, or type AB blood are more likely than people with type O to have a heart attack or suffer from heart failure.
Although the increased risk is small (types A or B had a combined 8% higher risk of heart attack and 10% higher heart failure, according to a large study) the difference in blood clotting rates is much higher, according to the AHA. People in the same study with blood types A and B were 51% more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis and 47% more likely to develop pulmonary embolism, which are serious blood clotting disorders that can also increase the risk of heart failure.
One reason for this increased risk, according to Guggenheim, may have to do with inflammation that occurs in the bodies of people with type A, type B, or type AB blood. The proteins found in the blood type A and type B can cause more “blockage” or “thickening” in the veins and arteries, leading to an increased risk of blood clotting and heart disease.
Guggenheim also thinks this may describe the anecdotal (but currently inconclusive) decrease in the risk of severe COVID-19 disease in people with type O blood, which inspired the research. Severe COVID-19 disease often causes heart problems, blood clotting, and other cardiovascular problems.
Other blood group consequences
People with type O blood have a slightly lower risk of heart disease and blood clotting, but may be more susceptible to bleeding or bleeding disorders. This may be especially true after childbirth, according to a postpartum blood loss study, which found an increased risk in women with type O blood.
According to a study published in Critical Care, people with type O blood can also worsen after a traumatic injury due to increased blood loss.
Other research has found that people with type AB blood may be at greater risk for cognitive impairment than people with type O. Cognitive impairment includes things like difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions.
Should I change my lifestyle based on my blood type?
While the research available now shows that blood type can tip the ladder in terms of risk of developing heart disease, important factors such as diet, exercise or even the level of pollution you are exposed to in your community are major factors. actors in determining the Heart Health.
Guggenheim says that for patients trying to keep their heart healthy, there is no special recommendation they would make other than a good heart-healthy diet that reduces inflammation, regardless of someone’s blood type.
But, he notes, future research could offer more definitive ways doctors treat patients based on their blood type. All factors considered equally, a patient with healthy cholesterol levels and type A blood may benefit from taking aspirin every day while it may not be necessary for a person in the same boat with type O blood.
“A well-balanced, heart-healthy diet in general will be what any doctor will recommend, and I’d argue that the ABO doesn’t change that,” Guggenheim said.
“I don’t think there is a protective benefit in just having type O blood that contributes to scot-free,” he added.
More for your well-being
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical or health advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care practitioner with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goal.