Certain risk factors for illnesses such as cancer, stroke, dementia, and heart disease may readily come to mind. Smoking, being overweight, and drinking alcohol excessively are all known to spike your risk of these particular ailments—but experts say that on top of these, there’s one often-overlooked risk factor that could increase your odds of getting sick: your blood type. Read on to learn which blood type is associated with an increased risk of all four of these conditions, and how it affects your odds of developing them.
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Your blood type can affect your risk of various kinds of cancer, recent research suggests. In particular, people who have type AB blood—the least common blood type in the U.S.—are 21 percent more likely to be diagnosed with stomach cancer, compared to people with other blood types, says Penn Medicine.
Regardless of your blood type, however, there are several ways to lower your stomach cancer risk. These include maintaining a healthy diet that’s rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and avoiding foods that are smoked or high in salt.
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Certain studies have found that having blood type AB is associated with an increased ischemic stroke risk. In fact, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis found that “blood type AB is associated with an increased risk of stroke that is not attenuated by conventional stroke risk factors… While blood type AB is rare in the US population, it is a significant stroke risk factor and may play an important role in stroke risk in these individuals,” that study states.
The team behind the study adds that 60 percent of this association is likely explained by a blood clotting protein known as factor VIII levels. Separate studies have also linked type A blood to increased stroke risk.
People with blood type AB are 82 percent more likely to develop memory problems than people who have type O blood, Penn Medicine experts say.”One possible reason for this memory loss is the fact that blood type can lead to things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes,” their experts write. “These conditions can cause cognitive impairment and dementia.”
If you are concerned about memory loss, certain lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk. Exercising regularly, getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, avoiding stress, drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking, and maintaining an active social life can greatly reduce your risk.
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Having type AB blood may put you at heightened risk of heart disease—though only very slightly. “People with A, B, and AB are 6.2 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease than people with type O [blood],” says Penn Medicine. “It may seem obvious that your blood type is related to your heart, since your heart pumps blood to the rest of your body. But your blood type can actually put you at a higher risk for conditions such as heart attack and heart disease,” their experts note. “This is because of a gene called the ABO gene—a gene that’s present in people with A, B, or AB blood types. The only blood type that doesn’t have this gene is Type O.”
You can lower your heart disease risk using many of the same interventions that prevent cancer, dementia, and stroke. Eating well, not smoking, exercising regularly, and controlling underlying conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol can all help slash your risk.