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Blood Type May Be Important in Heart Attack Risk

Blood type

Unless you are giving or receiving blood, you may not even think about what blood type you are. But new research shows that it could be an important factor in your risk for having a heart attack.


We all have blood running through our arteries and veins. Even though all blood is made of the same basic elements (plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets), there are variations determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens.

There are eight different common blood types, together known as the “ABO Blood Group System.” These are:
• Group A – has only the A antigen on red cells (and B antibody in the plasma)
• Group B – has only the B antigen on red cells (and A antibody in the plasma)
• Group AB – has both A and B antigens on red cells (but neither A nor B antibody in the plasma)
• Group O – has neither A nor B antigens on red cells (but both A and B antibody are in the plasma)

Group “O” is known as the “universal blood donor”, as they are able to donate red blood cells to the other groups. This may also be protective somehow, as new research suggests that not being in the “O” group puts you at a higher risk of having a heart attack.

Presenting at the 4th World Congress on Acute Heart Failure, researchers with the University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands said that non-O blood groups are associated with a 9% increased risk of coronary evens and a 9% increased risk of cardiovascular events, especially myocardial infarction.

The reasons for the increased risk are still under investigation, but it could be due to non-O blood groups having higher concentrations of von Willebrand factor, a blood clotting protein. Another factor may be a higher blood level of galectin-3, which is linked to inflammation. Those with A blood, in past studies, have been found to have higher cholesterol levels as well.

Lead author Tessa Kole, a Master's degree student says that these results could have important implications for personalised medicine. “In future, blood group should be considered in risk assessment for cardiovascular prevention, together with cholesterol, age, sex and systolic blood pressure. It could be that people with an A blood group should have a lower treatment threshold for dyslipidaemia or hypertension, for example. We need further studies to validate if the excess cardiovascular risk in non-O blood group carriers may be amenable to treatment."

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Lifestyle Changes to Make if You have A, B or AB Blood

While you can’t change your blood type, you can use this information to take positive steps toward reducing your overall heart attack risk. The American Heart Association suggests:

• Stop smoking
• Choose good nutrition – especially a diet low in saturated and trans fats and rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
• Lower High blood cholesterol – use diet and exercise to lower cholesterol levels and see your doctor about other steps you can take to reduce risk.
• Lower high blood pressure – Know your blood pressure numbers and take steps to bring these to normal if they are high
• Be physically active every day – at least 30 minutes a day is needed for cardiovascular health
• Aim for a healthy weight – lose weight if you are overweight with a healthy combination of diet and exercise
• Manage diabetes – diabetics are at a greater risk of heart disease overall
• Reduce stress
• Limit alcohol

European Society of Cardiology (ESC). "Non-O blood groups associated with higher risk of heart attack." ScienceDaily, 30 April 2017.

American Red Cross

American Heart Association

Photo Credit:
By Reytan - Own work, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons