There has been some interesting research coming out lately looking at various blood types (Type A, B, AB, or O) as an indicator for risk of heart disease. To me, this is really fascinating, because there are so many times that people come up to me and tell me a horrible story about someone who is totally fit, eats right, young, and then “drops dead of a heart attack” (a quote I hear a lot). I always think that there has to be a family history, something undiagnosed, or a predisposing factor. So, this research is important because maybe it really is part of those “genetics” that cause some people to be at a higher risk for certain diseases without having any other risk factors!
What is your Heart Disease risk based on your Blood Type?
There are two very large, ongoing studies that Harvard University runs, looking at various healthy populations, and they collect data on these research participants in all aspect of their lives: diet, nutrition, health issues, pregnancy, sleep, etc. and they continue to collect this data on these people for the duration of their lives. Between these two ongoing studies, the researchers looked at just shy of 90,000 people, analyzing data from 24 to 26 years for each participant, and what the data showed was pretty amazing. People who have blood Type AB, have a 23% higher risk of heart disease as a baseline, whereas Type B put a 16% higher risk, and Type A was a 6% increased risk, as opposed to people with Type O blood, who have minimal risks (basically none). Strange, right? Just having one blood type, in particular, can seem to put you at a higher risk for heart disease and heart attacks.
How can your Blood Type determine your risk?
This part is still being studied for a more exact reasoning, because the way that the human body works, especially with blood and the clotting cascade, it is very difficult to pin point one factor (or explanation) for why different blood types carry within their cells innate varied risks for heart disease. But the researchers have a hypothesis (a suggested reason) for why this phenomenon may occur: people who have Type O blood tend to bleed more (take longer to clot), so they would be less at risk for their blood spontaneously clotting to cause a heart attack or stroke. Also, people who have Type A blood, have been found to have higher Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) levels (which is the bad cholesterol) circulating in their blood, as they lack an enzyme (that Type O has) which makes removing cholesterols more efficient. Cholesterol is bad because it builds up in arteries and causes plaques and hardening of the vessels, which leads to an increased risk of plaques breaking off and causing a heart attack, less blood flow to the heart, and also increases the risk of clots forming that can lead to a stroke or heart attack. So, if you have more circulating cholesterol, you have a higher risk of heart disease which can cause heart attacks. Now, again, it is not truly known why people with Type O tend to bleed more or why people with Type A have more cholesterol circulating, but it is being studied to find more exact reasonings.
Is there anything I can do to decrease my risk for heart disease?
You cannot change your genetics, which is a bummer, but you can live a healthy lifestyle to promote heart health:
– Stay at a healthy weight
– Exercise at least 30 minutes per day 5-6 days a week
– Avoid smoking and using other tobacco products
– Avoid a high fat diet and load up on fresh fruit and veggies
– Get regular check ups to monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels
Talk to your HCP about your risks, and have an open communication about what is the BEST way to maintain a healthy heart based on your life and lifestyle, and when/if you need to be on any blood pressure medication. It is always good to be monitored for healthiness, especially if you have a family history or Type AB blood, as we now have learned. And….if you don’t know your blood type, that test can be performed in about 30 seconds (I learned in 8th grade science class- we all took a drop of blood and figured out our blood types- which I am now learning from various people is really strange.) So figure out your risk factors, talk to your HCP, and live a healthy lifestyle (as best you can!)
Yours in Good Health