What determines blood type?

Blood type categorizes blood by what it contains and it includes the Rhesus or Rh factor and antigens. Though nothing is definitive, your blood type can put you at a higher risk for certain medical conditions.
Blood type categorizes blood by what it contains and it includes the Rhesus or Rh factor and antigens. Though nothing is definitive, your blood type can put you at a higher risk for certain medical conditions.

Many people are unsure of their blood types. You may not know that your blood type can make you more susceptible to certain medical conditions. A blood type chart can help you figure out what blood type you have.

Blood type categorizes blood by what it contains. This includes the Rhesus or Rh factor and antigens. 

Your blood type is genetically passed down from your parents. This can result in different combinations. You will not necessarily have the exact type as your parent. 

Usually, blood typing is used to figure out what other types of blood you can receive or give during donation. But it can also be helpful to know if your type might put you at risk for particular medical conditions. 

The ABO blood group system includes four different blood types. Every group is important because people from each group can have medical emergencies at some point. 

The group you're in depends on the antibodies and antigens in your blood. Antigens are the combination of proteins and sugars on the surface of red blood cells. Based on that mixture, you will have one of the following:  

  • A antigens
  • B antigens
  • Both A and B antigens
  • No antigens

The clear part of your blood is called plasma and has antibodies. During transfusions, antibodies are the natural defense that recognizes foreign substances in the body and instructs your immune system to crush them. That's why giving someone the wrong ABO blood type could potentially be fatal.   

What are the different blood types?

Antigen presence and antibodies determine these four different blood types:  

  • Type O: No antigens on red cells, anti-A and anti-B antibodies
  • Type A: Type A antigens on red cells, anti-B antibodies
  • Type B: Type B antigens on red cells, anti-A antibodies
  • Type AB: Type A and B on red cells, no antibodies

Some blood types are rarer than others, and there are eight main types once the Rhesus factor is taken into consideration. The following are the blood types and the percentage of donors who have them:  

  • O positive: 35%
  • O negative: 13%
  • A positive: 30%
  • A negative: 8%
  • B positive: 8%
  • B negative: 2%
  • AB positive: 2%
  • AB negative: 1%

Is the Rhesus factor important?

The Rhesus (Rh) factor is a protein found on red blood cells. If you have it, you are Rh+; if not, you're Rh−. Rh+ is most common. Being Rh− is not an illness, and it doesn't usually affect your health. It can affect pregnancy, though. If you are Rh−, and your baby is Rh+, you are Rh incompatible and need special care. Your medical provider will do a blood type and Rh factor screening test. This will determine your situation.  

What are the blood types known for?

  • 0 positive: Most common
  • 0 negative: Universal blood donor
  • A negative: Universal platelet type
  • AB negative: Rarest
  • AB positive: Universal blood acceptor

You can get blood from a donor who has the same type as you. You can also get blood from a compatible donor type.

What health conditions are associated with each type?

Memory loss and brain function: Brain function is connected to the ABO genes. If you have blood types A, B, or AB, you are 82% more likely to have memory and cognition issues. This can eventually lead to dementia. It is also linked to stroke. One possibility is that blood type can lead to issues with elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. All of these can cause cognitive issues.

Heart disease and heart attack: Blood pumps through your heart, so obviously, there's a connection between the heart and blood type. Your blood type can put you at high risk for heart disease and heart attack. If you are not blood type O, your ABO gene can put you at risk for heart issues. This is especially true if you live in an area with high pollution levels. It can increase the risk of coronary artery disease in blood types A, B, and AB.

Cancer: Many factors are connected with high cancer risk. But if you have type A blood, you have a higher risk of stomach cancer. The ABO gene has been linked to additional cancers like breast, prostate, liver, colorectal, lung, and cervical cancers. The connection has existed for over 60 years, and there is no explanation as to why the gene behaves this way. 

What are the possible consequences of being RH negative?

If you are Rh− and your baby is Rh +, you may need immune globulin injections for situations when your blood and the baby’s blood may connect. Possible complications of Rh incompatibility are:

Are our blood types and ethnicity important?

Just like hair and eye color, your blood type is inherited from your parents. You are likely to share a blood type or subtype with someone of the same ethnic background. An example is the Ro subtype. It's rare but 10 times more common in black people than in white people. This is important with blood donations because it is used to treat people with sickle cell and is in high demand. Unfortunately, only 2% of donors have the Ro subtype. But fortunately, numbers are increasing yearly. 

QUESTION

Sickle cell disease is named after a farming tool. See Answer

Overall, does blood type matter to health?

Blood type is one of many factors that contribute to your overall risk for certain medical illnesses. Though nothing is definitive, your blood type can put you at a higher risk for certain medical conditions. 

The awareness of how your blood type can affect your health is the first step toward protecting yourself. But seeing your doctor regularly and leading a healthy lifestyle are also important. 

A healthy diet full of vegetables, fruit, fish, lean protein, and whole grains will help keep your body in top condition, as will regular physical activity. Not smoking and limiting the use of alcohol also contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 5/26/2022
References
SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: "Rh factor blood test."

NHS Blood Donation: "Blood types."

Penn Medicine: "What Does Your Blood Type Have to Do With Your Health?"