The scary part of this one is that those who have it ... well, they can’t do anything about it.
It’s blood type. Specifically, those who have blood types A, B or AB appear to be at a slightly higher risk of heart disease; at least, according to a recently published study in “Arterioslerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology,” a journal distributed by the American Heart Association.
Dr. Lu Qi, senior author of the lengthy study who hails from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, is the first to encourage the public not to panic. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Qi acknowledged, “We cannot change blood type, but we can change lifestyle.”
And therein lies the key. We can’t change our blood, but we can take steps to help it flow a little better, operate a little smoother and get to its destinations in our bodies in a more streamlined fashion. That’s just a non-medical way of saying healthy lifestyles can contribute to a healthier heart which pumps the blood that keeps all the other organs working together in harmony.
As for Qi’s study, whose observational groups spanned a 20-year period, here’s the skinny; in this case, the latter term is not a reference to weight although it’s a step in the right direction for those who want to befriend their cardiovascular systems.
As we understand it, the study included about 90,000 men and women in two health studies. Over a period of two decades, 4,070 people developd heart disease. Researchers considered age and a slew of long-studied factors like diet, drinking and family history of heart attacks, each of which can contribute to heart disease.
The report did not identify distinct links between these blood types and heart disease, just the frequency of numbers. However, it did take into account past observations that have shown blood types might affect cholesterol numbers or the risk of developing blood clots.
Another physician not involved in the study stops short of discounting its results, but Dr. Amit Khera, director of the Preventive Cardiology Program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas does describe the possibility of blood type being an indicator of higher risk as “modest.” He fingers other discretionary habits like smoking as having a bigger impact.
“This shouldn’t cause much alarm for most of the population,” Khera suggested of the latest study. Instead, he urged people to pay attention to what medical research has been saying for years — weight, cholesterol, uncontrolled hypertension, lack of exercise, tobacco use, excessive drinking ... all the accepted nasties of good heart health.
As for those with blood type O — the most common — don’t rest on your laurels. All those demons mentioned above still apply to you.
For those who like numbers, the American Red Cross reports Type O courses through the veins of 45 percent of whites, 51 percent of blacks, 57 percent of Hispanics and 40 percent of Asians. Those with Type A include 40 percent of whites, 26 percent of blacks, 31 percent of Hispanics and 28 percent of Asians. Those with Type B are 11 percent of whites, 19 percent of blacks, 10 percent of Hispanics and 25 percent of Asians. And Type AB includes 4 percent of whites and blacks, 2 percent of Hispanics and 7 percent of Asians.
Numbers are a good talking point, but here’s the bottom line. Be good to yourself with a healthy lifestyle. It doesn’t mean you can’t sneak the occasional slice of coconut cake or mouth-watering piece of grandma’s sweet potato pie. Just do it in moderation.
And while you’re at it, toss the tobacco. Get some exercise. Watch the blood pressure and cholesterol. Enjoy some downtime.
And find out your blood type. It can’t hurt. You can do it by making a blood donation to Blood Assurance. It’s a gift of life ... for somebody else, and maybe even for you.