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Blood type associated with heart-disease risk, study finds

August 14, 2012|By Eryn Brown | Los Angeles Times
  • In a new study, people with Type O blood were found to be at lower risk for heart disease than people with blood types A, B and AB.
In a new study, people with Type O blood were found to be at lower risk for heart… (Adam Gault /Digital Vision…)

Potentially good news for the 45% of Americans who have Type O blood: researchers said Tuesday that those people appear to have a slightly lower risk of developing heart diseasethan their neighbors with Type A, B or AB blood.

Dr. Lu Qi, an assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, analyzed heart disease risk in two large, multi-decade health studies — reviewing  data collected from 62,073 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, which was launched in 1976, and from 27,428 men who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, launched in 1986. 

Adjusting for heart disease risk factors including diet, diabetes status, gender and race, Qi and his colleagues found that study participants with type AB blood had the largest heart disease risk — 20% greater than that of people with Type O blood. (The team calculated that the incidence of heart disease was 125 cases per 100,000 person-years.)  Type B was next with an 11% greater risk, and type A was third with an 8% greater risk, the scientists reported.

The trend held up when the researchers compared their results with several other population studies recording the same factors. Across a total of seven studies, the increased risk for people with non-O blood types was 11% higher than that for people with Type O. 

Rh factor — the “positive” or “negative” often included in blood typing — was not correlated with any differences in heart disease risk.

The analysis was not designed to identify the reasons why blood type might influence heart disease risk.  But the researchers noted that non-O individuals have higher levels of two proteins involved in clotting and atherosclerosis — and that people with Type A blood, in particular, have been reported to have higher levels of serum total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

The research appeared in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, which is published by the American Heart Assn. In a statement released by that organization, Harvard’s Qi said that learning more about the relationship between blood type and heart disease risk could help doctors tailor their advice — perhaps urging patients with Type A blood to watch their cholesterol more carefully, for example.

“Our findings might help physicians better understand who is at risk for developing heart disease,” he said. “It’s good to know your blood type the same way you should know your cholesterol or blood pressure numbers.  If you know you’re at higher risk, you can reduce that risk by adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as eating right, exercising and not smoking.”


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