What Your Blood Type Reveals About Your Health

If you’re wondering whether you’re at a higher-than-average risk for heart disease, your answer may very well be a pinprick away. A new Harvard study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology shows that your blood type can actually predict your risk for heart disease. Additional current research shows that certain blood types are associated with other dangerous disorders as well.

Which blood type puts people at highest risk for heart disease?

The study investigated whether certain blood types were associated with the risk of coronary heart disease, by looking at information from two large observational studies, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. These two studies followed a combined 89,501 American men and women over a 24 to 26 year period.

Participants with the blood type AB had the highest risk of coronary heart disease, the Harvard researchers found. In fact, people with AB blood type were 23 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease. People who were blood type B had a 15 percent increased risk, and those with blood type A had a 6 percent increased risk compared to the O blood group.

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Why would blood type affect the risk of coronary heart disease?

The studies did not explain the exact link between blood type and heart disease. “Blood type is very complicated, so there could be multiple mechanisms at play,” study author Lu Qi said in a news release.

However, blood type A has been linked to elevated levels of cholesterol, as well as high levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. People with blood type O have been found to bleed more, which makes them less likely to have blood clots. Since clots which block blood flow through coronary arteries lead to heart attacks, this theory may very well explain the low risk for cardiovascular issues among people with blood type O.

What’s the link between blood type and other diseases?

There have been earlier studies showing links between blood type and risks of infections or diseases. Here are some examples.

  • Both men and women with blood type AB, and women with blood type B, are more likely to suffer from strokes than people with O blood type.
  • The gut pathogen Rotavirus, which causes diarrhea and vomiting, has certain strains which are more likely to infect people with blood type A. (Infants can get vaccinated against rotavirus, and frequent handwashing is a good preventative measure for older children and adults.)
  • People with type B blood have a 72 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer, and the risk is also elevated for AB blood types (51 percent) and those with blood type A (32 percent) compared to people with blood type O, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
  • It’s not all bad news for A and AB blood types, at least not for women seeking fertility treatments—research shows they have more eggs in their ovaries than women with type O blood, who are more likely to have difficulty with fertility treatments.
  • Certain types of cancers seem to be more prevalent in specific blood types, according to information compiled from 2640 male and female cancer patients in India.
  • People with type A blood appeared to have higher incidences of breast cancer and lung cancer, blood types B and O were more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal cancer, and people with type B and A blood had higher incidents of oral cancer. In general, those with blood type A seemed to have an increases probability of getting cancer, and those with blood type O had a significantly lower risk.

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Reducing Heart Attack Risk

Taking steps to improve your cardiovascular health can save your life, no matter what your blood type is.

Avoiding tobacco use, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising for a half hour or more five days a week will reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including fish twice a week, and limiting sodium, alcohol and sugary drinks is also recommended.

And as I’ve reported previously, flossing your teeth, watching comedy, eating dark chocolate, and even spending time in the sunshine are some effective, albeit nontraditional, ways to protect your ticker.

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