A Basic Guide to Understanding Blood Types
Blood in the human species is categorized into four basic types – A, B, AB, and O. Each letter represents the type of antigen or protein that is on the surface of your red blood cells. The blood of humans is also categorized by its Rhesus (Rh) factor, which determines whether or not you have the D antigen protein on your red blood cell’s surface. If you have the D antigen, your blood type will be positive (A+, B+, AB+ or O+). If you do not have the D antigen, your blood type will be negative (A-, B-, AB-, or O-). Despite the moniker of being positive or negative, the presence or lack thereof the D antigen is neither good or bad, it simply determines compatibility with other blood types.
The most practical reason for understanding your blood type is for blood transfusions. Should you or another individual need a blood transfusion due to blood loss, it is important that the blood type used in the transfusion is compatible with your blood type. This is often imperative in surgeries or in recovering from accidents where blood loss was excessive. If the wrong blood type is used in a transfusion, it can cause the red blood cells to clump, forming a clot that will block blood vessels and potentially cause death.
Blood Type A
People with Type A blood have the A antigen on their red blood cells and the B antibody on their plasma cells. If you have Type A blood, you may have higher levels of cortisol, a certain type of stress hormone. With Type A blood, you would have a 20 percent higher risk of developing stomach cancer and a five percent higher chance of developing heart disease. In general, you are at a higher risk of developing several types of cancer with Type A blood, including leukemia and pancreatic cancer. You are also more prone to severe malaria and smallpox. Your silver lining with Type A blood is that mosquitoes may be less interested in you!
If you are A+, you are among the 34% of Americans that share your blood type. You can donate your blood only to people with A+ and AB+ blood types, which includes 38% of Americans. If you are A-, you are among only 6% of Americans that share your blood type. However, you can donate to a wider range of blood types than A+, including A+, A-, AB+, and AB-, which accounts for 45% of Americans!
Blood Type B
People with Type B blood have the B antigen on their red blood cells and the A antibody on their plasma cells. If you have Type B blood, you will have an 11% increased chance of getting heart disease. Women with B antigen (including blood type AB) on their red blood cells had an increased risk of ovarian cancer. However, the negative health impacts of type B blood pretty much stop there – you can also look forward to having 50,000 times the number of friendly bacteria strains!
If you are B+, you are among the 10% of Americans that share your blood type. You can only donate blood to recipients of B+ or AB+ blood types, which is only 14% of Americans. If you are B-, you are among a very low 2% of Americans that share your rare blood type. However, you can donate to those with type B+, B-, AB+, or AB- blood, which accounts for 17% of the population.
Blood Type AB
People with Type AB blood have both the A and B antigens on their red blood cells and neither the A nor B antibody on their plasma. If you have type AB blood you are at a 23% increased chance of developing heart disease thanks to the A-antigen. Pregnant women with AB blood have double the risk of suffering from a blood pressure condition called pre-eclampsia, which can cause organ damage. One study found that those with AB blood type were 82% more likely to have difficulty with cognitive functions, such as memory, language, and attention.
If you are AB+, you are among the 4% of Americans that share your blood type. People with AB+ can only donate blood to other AB+ people, but as the universal recipient, they can accept any blood type. Those with AB- are among the rarest group, with only 1% of Americans sharing that blood type. AB- can only donate to the 5% of Americans that have either AB+ or AB- blood types.
Blood Type O
People with Type O blood have neither A nor B antigens on their red blood cells, but both A and B antibodies in their plasma. If you are type O, you are more likely to get ulcers and, oddly enough, you are more likely to rupture an Achilles tendon. You also have a higher risk of contracting cholera, a disease that causes diarrhea and dehydration. The good news is that you are at a lower risk for pancreatic cancer and face a much lower risk of experiencing fatal consequences if you contract malaria. However, you are twice as likely to be bitten by swarms of mosquitoes!
If you are O+, you are among the largest group of Americans sharing your blood type – 37%! You can donate your blood to those with O+, A+, B+, and AB+ blood types, totaling 85% of the population! If you are O-, you are among one of the rarer groups of Americans that share your blood type at the rate of 6% of the population. However, you are considered the “universal donor” as you can donate your blood to any of the blood types – 100% of the population!