There are many reasons why some people get heart disease and others don’t; some factors are hereditary, others are within the individual’s control. And according to new research from the Harvard School of Public Health, another factor with a role to play is blood type, meaning that people in the higher-risk groups need to make extra efforts to stick to a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Researchers looked at data from nearly 90,000 study participants, who were aged between 30 and 75 and were followed for 20 years or more. Their age, diet, BMI, gender, race and medical history were taken into account when the researchers assessed heart disease risk in relation to blood group. They found that people with blood type A, B or AB had a higher risk of heart disease compared with people with blood type O, and those with AB had the highest increased risk – up by 23%. Those with type B had an 11% increased risk, and those with type A a 5% increase.
There is nothing you can do to change your blood group but this information is useful, say the researchers, because those at higher risk can then be followed more carefully by their doctors and, potentially, the people affected could adapt their lifestyles to reduce their risk.
Which blood group are you?
Most people in the UK have blood type O, although in the south of England there is a slightly higher of prevalence of people with blood type A. You can find out what your blood group is by giving blood. If you’ve been pregnant, had a blood transfusion or had an operation you will have had your blood group checked already.
Are blood types hereditary?
There are only three different blood genes (A, B, O) and you can have a combination of these, which is then called your ‘blood group’. So you could have A or AB, for example. You inherit your blood group from your parents. If, however, one of your parents has AB and the other O, you will inherit either blood type A or B, not O. O is a recessive blood group and so the only way to pass it on is if both parents have it. And if your parents both have AB blood types, you may have A, AB, or B.
What can I do if I’m AB?
Aside from doing regular exercise, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and lowering your saturated fat intake, there are other things you can do to lower your risk.
Take vitamins. Vitamin E, B6 and folate have been shown in studies to be linked to reduced risk of heart disease. The studies haven’t been able to show cause and effect but researchers do know that B vitamins help lower homocysteine levels; high levels carry a similar risk of heart disease to high cholesterol levels. Read our A-Z of vitamins and minerals for more information about different vitamins.
Get more sleep. Going to bed earlier each night might help too. In a study of 70,000 women, those who had less than seven hours’ sleep a night had a raised risk of heart disease compared to those who had eight hours or more.
Eat fish. People who eat fish at least once a week are less likely to have heart disease. Researchers can’t say whether this is because people are replacing red meat with fish and therefore decreasing their saturated fat intake or because some types of fish have heart-healthy omega-3 oils in it. Either way, eating fish is a good idea! Browse our fish recipes archive for meal ideas.