5 crucial and surprising secrets your blood type can tell you about your health

By | February 25, 2024

Doctor holding a tube with a specific blood type

The average adult has between 1.2 and 1.5 liters of blood in their body, accounting for about 10% of their weight. Despite being such a large and crucial part of human anatomy, many people don’t even know what their blood type is.

Why is it worth knowing? Your blood type can tell you important insider information (no pun intended) about your health, including if you’re more at risk for certain types of medical conditions. Keep reading to discover five secrets your blood type can tell you about your health.

Related: Do you want to live to be 100? These centenarians share their secrets to longevity

What determines the blood group?

There are four major blood types: A, B, AB and O. Board Certified General Practitioner Dr. Amber Robins, MD, MBA, explains that blood type is determined by a person’s genes; it is passed down from one’s biological parents.

Dr. Laura Purdy, MD, MBA, a board-certified primary care physician and the medical director and co-founder of SWELL Medical, adds, explaining that the presence of specific antigens in your blood determines a person’s blood type. Antigens are protein molecules found on the surface of red blood cells. Whether or not certain antigens are present on your red blood cells determines what your blood type is.

“The times when [doctors] Checking blood type is usually when someone donates your blood or possibly receives blood. For those preparing for surgery or having a baby, we often check your blood type. However, this is not a routine blood test that is performed if you have regular check-ups with your doctor,” says Dr. Robins.

If you don’t know your blood type and want to know what it is, you can still donate blood. Dr. Purdy says you can also just ask your doctor for a blood test to find out what your blood type is, or you can take a blood test at home.

Related: This Is the Most Important Blood Test You Should Get Every Year If You Want to Live to 100, According to a Geriatrician

5 secrets your blood type can tell you about your health

Making the effort to get a blood test at your doctor or taking a blood test at home to find out what your blood type is has several important benefits. Below are five secrets your blood type can tell you about your health and why knowing your blood type can be so helpful.

1. You know what type of blood you need in an emergency

Both Dr. Purdy as Dr. Robins say a big reason why knowing your blood type is helpful is so you know what type of blood you need in an emergency and if you need a blood transfusion. But even if you provide your blood type to emergency responders or doctors, you can rest assured that doctors will still confirm your blood type through a test called an ABO determination. If emergency responders or doctors do not have the 45 minutes needed to determine your blood type and you need a transfusion quickly, they will give you blood type O, which is safe for people of any blood type.

2. If you are pregnant, knowing your blood type can protect you and your baby

There’s an important reason why Dr. Purdy says knowing your blood type can be helpful when you’re pregnant. During pregnancy, having Rh negative blood can be dangerous if the baby’s blood is Rh positive. If the two types of blood mix, the baby may become anemic or the mother’s body may attack the baby’s blood. Rh factor is a type of protein on the surface of red blood cells. Rh-negative blood is usually not a problem, except during pregnancy when the baby’s blood is Rh-positive.

Because it is so important that Rh negative and Rh positive blood does not mix, doctors will perform blood tests during prenatal appointments to check for the Rh antigen.

Related: This is the most important screening you can get every year if you’re 50 or older

3. It can tell you if you are at higher risk for stomach ulcers and pancreatic cancer

Certain blood types are more at risk for certain health conditions that affect the digestive system. For example, scientific studies show that people with blood group O have a greater risk of stomach ulcers. Scientific research also shows a link between blood groups A, B and AB and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. If you have one of these blood types, it does not mean you are destined to develop ulcers or cancer. However, it can serve as a guide to taking extra precautions to lower your risk through diet and lifestyle habits.

4. It can tell you if you are at greater risk for heart disease

Scientific studies show that people with blood group type O have a lower risk of developing heart disease than all other blood types. Again, this doesn’t mean that if you have type A, B, or AB blood, you will definitely get heart disease – or that if you have type O blood, you definitely won’t. But it’s still useful information to have, and if your blood type is A, B, or AB, it may inspire you to take extra care of your heart through healthy diet and lifestyle habits.

5. It is useful to know whether you want to donate blood

Every two seconds someone in the US needs blood. A single blood donation can save up to three lives. Despite this critical importance, only 3% of eligible Americans donate blood annually. Dr. Robins says it can be helpful to know your blood type if you want to donate. Some blood donation centers send text messages to former donors when there is a critical need. If you have blood type O, you are an especially valuable donor because all blood types are compatible with yours. However, if you don’t know your blood type, don’t let this stop you from donating. By doing this you save lives.

While not knowing your blood type is not dangerous, knowing what it is can provide useful clues about your health. The more you know about your body, the better you can take care of it.

Then, here’s everything you need to know about at-home medical tests, including which ones are the most accurate.

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