Blood Type Linked to Risk of Heart Disease

By Judy Feldman on August 15, 2012 4:54 PM EDT

Blood
Blood Type Linked To Risk ofHeart Disease (Photo: Wiki Commons)

What can your blood type tell about you? The blood that runs through your veins, literally, may be able to give you a clue to your risk of developing coronary heart disease. The four types (A, B, AB, and O) indicate varying degrees of risk for heart disease, says a recent study that was conducted at Harvard University's School of Public Health. The study was recently published in the American Heart Association journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

The study, led by Dr. Meian He, an epidemiologist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, reviewed data from two large studies that looked at more than 85,000 people between 1976 and 2006, between the ages 30 and 75, who participated in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The research considered age, diet, drinking, and factors such as family history of heart attacks. The researchers do not yet understand the blood type-heart disease connection. Previous research has already indicated a link between having type A blood and higher levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, as well as another link between having AB type blood and inflammation. Some theories suggest that having type A, B or AB blood may result in higher levels of certain clotting factors in the blood.

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Is O least risky and AB most risky? Well, this study did find that carriers of O type blood have the least risk of developing heart disease. The study found that if you have AB blood type -- only about 7 percent of the U.S. population does - you have a 23 percent increased risk of the condition, compared with type O. But what can you do with that information?

"Those who know they are at higher risk may be more motivated to make changes to lower their chances of heart disease, said Dr. Lu Qi, a senior author of the study from Harvard School of Public Health, to the Associated Press." We cannot change blood type, but we can change lifestyle." Smoking for example, or a sedentary lifestyle, are both more potent factors that you can control.

Specifically the rates of risk are as follows:

If your blood type is A, the risk was found to be 8 percent; type B, 11 percent; and type AB, 20-23 percent (compared with of you have Category O blood, often called the Universal Donor blood, and the most common type.)

"Most things that are this modest, most of the time they don't meaningfully change how you'd think about your risk overall," said Dr. Amit Khera, director of the Preventive Cardiology Program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, to the Associated Press.

Blood is a fascinating fluid, to say the least. Some cultures have held that blood type can affect and help you evaluate personality. (For example, instead of being asked to disclose your astrological information, you might be asked about your blood type.) For more on that fun exploration, see here. Others believe that blood type should dictate your most healthy diet.(That is considered by many to be highly controversial, but nonetheless, interesting. For more on the subject, see here.)

Whatever you think about blood, and some, who faint at the sight, like PBS' Dr. Martin, probably prefer not to think of it at all, here are the breakdowns, in the population at large.

Type O: According to the American Red Cross, about 45 percent of whites, 51 percent of blacks, 57 percent of Hispanics and 40 percent of Asians have blood type O,

Type A: 40 percent of whites, 26 percent of blacks, 31 percent of Hispanics and 28 percent of Asians.

Type B: 11 percent of whites, 19 percent of blacks, 10 percent of Hispanics and 25 percent of Asians.

Type AB: 4 percent of white and blacks, 2 percent of Hispanics and 7 percent of Asians.

Blood types can also affect your risk of stroke, according to a previous study also led by Dr. Lu Qi last year. That study, conducted by researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital, included statistics and data from 90,000 people, and showed that AB type blood in men and women, and B type blood in women, is linked with an increased risk of stroke, compared with people with O type blood, the Associated Press reported.

This research, publishedTuesday, is the latest to suggest a relationship between blood type and a risk of heart disease. But not all heart experts are convinced there is a link at all, according an article published by ABCNews. "There are no clinical implications", said Dr. Steve Nissen, chairman of cardiology at Cleveland Clinic Foundation to ABCNews.

Dr. Jeffrey Brinker, a cardiologist from Johns Hopkins University told ABCNews, "This type of study does not provide a degree of rigor that we usually consider necessary to definitely prove the point." The doctors pointed out that the study shows relationship but not necessarily a cause and an effect. Brinker added that he worries this information "would tend to inappropriately depress most people and inappropriately reassure the others," especially since blood type is genetic and Americans with non-O blood will wonder if they should be doing anything to protect themselves.

Other cardiologists however, told ABCNews that the study is potentially beneficial. "This study adds to the existing literature demonstrating a significant association between ABO blood group and cardiovascular adverse events," said Dr. Jeffrey Berger, a cardiologist at NYU medical center. "This study is not novel - but the study is large - and is able to reinforce this message."

So, while there is not anything conclusive yet, and nothing you can even do to actually change your blood type, it's all interesting stuff. And you can read the abstract of the recent study, here.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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