Did you know that there are eight different common blood types? And your blood type is more than just a letter or combination of them. In fact, knowing your type can help you stay healthy, plan for the future and prevent health complications.
Learn about how your blood type can influence your whole health and protect it, too.
All blood consists of plasma, red and white blood cells, and platelets, but it’s the antigens that separate it into distinct categories or blood types. Antigens can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to your body, meaning an incorrect mix of blood can clump dangerously inside your veins. But don’t worry; if you should ever need a transfusion, our medical teams ensure that you receive only the specific type of blood that is compatible with your body.
Here are the different blood types:
- Group A – only has the A antigen on red cells (and B antibody in the plasma)
- Group B – only has 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)
The positive or negative distinction has to do with Rh factor, which can be present (+) or absent (–) in each group. If your blood is in Group A, for instance, you could be Type A+ or Type A–.
The Most Common (and Rare) Blood Types
One of the best reasons to know your blood type is to be able to help others through donation. Sometimes, local organizations may put out a call for specific types, especially if there has been a natural disaster, tragedy or increase in traffic accidents.
Ideally, blood transfusions are done with donated blood that's an exact match for both type and Rh factor. However, O– is commonly known as the “universal donor” because of its ability to supply red blood cells to nearly any recipient. AB+ is the “universal recipient” and can receive blood from all types despite only being able to donate to other AB types. O+ tends to be the most common blood type across ethnic groups.
Your Blood Type Can Influence Your Whole Health
Scientists are constantly working to identify correlations between blood type and disease risk. Here are some ways that your blood type may increase your risk of certain diseases or conditions.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at two long-term studies that assessed individuals’ heart health and blood type. They found that Type O participants had the lowest risk of heart disease.
Those with Type A blood were five percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease than those with Type O. Participants with Type B had a 10 percent higher risk and Type AB had a 23 percent higher risk.
Studies have shown that blood group AB and a higher FVIII (a key clotting protein) may increase one’s risk of cognitive impairment. The theory is that higher factor VIII may reduce the quality of blood flow to the brain.
In this study, the people with type AB blood were 82 percent more likely to experience cognitive difficulties in memory recall, language, and attention.
Having a non-O blood group may increase your risk of vascular disorders, such as stroke, venous thromboembolism, peripheral vascular disease, angina and heart attack. This may be due to the fact that group O blood types have lower levels of key clotting factors. However, this increases group O individuals’ risk of excessive bleeding.
Blood type A, in particular, has higher average levels of FVIII, which brings an increased risk of ischemic heart disease, venous thromboembolism, and heart attacks.
Researchers have linked O blood types with a decreased risk of pancreatic cancer. Type O blood carries no antigens on the surface of red blood cells, and a particular bacteria called H. pylori require A and B antigens to thrive. The presence of H. pylori in the gut is thought to increase pancreatic cancer risk.
People with non-O blood types have a 17 percent greater risk of pancreatic cancer compared to O groups.
Research has shown that people with type A blood have increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the their bodies. This means that they may find the health impact of stress greater and longer lasting compared to other blood types.
Know Your Blood Type for Better Health
To find out your blood type, visit your primary care physician or simply ask when you go donate blood. The AdventHealth network of care also includes numerous lab locations throughout the country, which can provide testing and pathology support at any stage of your health journey.