Generally, knowing your blood type isn’t necessary unless there is a medical emergency involving blood loss. However, you could actually be missing out on important health clues by not knowing your blood type. Research has shown that blood type can influence your risk for a myriad of health conditions, from heart and vascular diseases to thinking and memory problems.
Common Blood Types
Blood type, like eye color, is inherited from your parents. There are eight common blood types, along with many rare ones. Blood type is determined by which antigens are present in your blood. Antigens are molecules that induce an immune response if they are foreign to a body. There are four major blood groups:
- Group A – Has the A antigen on red blood cells
- Group B – Has the B antigen on red blood cells
- Group AB – Has both A and B antigens on red blood cells
- Group O – Has no antigens on red blood cells
These four groups expand to eight types with the presence (+) or absence (-) of a protein called the Rh factor. The eight types are A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+, and O-. O negative blood is the universal blood type, meaning it can be given in emergency transfusions to individuals with any of the eight types of blood. This is due to the absence of antigens in O blood, and the fact that Rh-negative blood can also be given to people with Rh-positive blood.
Blood Type and Your Health
Knowing your blood type is important in case of an emergency situation requiring a blood transfusion. Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study that showed that people with A, B, or AB blood types are at a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease than people with blood type O. Research has also shown that non-O blood groups have a 60-80 percent higher risk of developing dangerous blood clots, and are also at a greater risk for inflammation.
Another study done by the University of Vermont showed that people with AB blood were 82 percent more likely than any other blood type to develop thinking or memory problems that leading to dementia. Researchers believe that because blood type is related to vascular issues, that could be what contributes to memory problems. Other studies have shown that people with blood type A have a higher risk of gastric cancer, while people with blood type O are more likely to develop a peptic ulcer.
Knowing your blood type can be an important piece of information, not only for emergencies, but also to help steer you in a direction to make certain lifestyle changes to avoid blood type-related health conditions. You may also consider donating blood, especially if you have type O blood, which is routinely in short supply and high demand.
This article first appeared in the May 2018 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.