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August 10, 2022 | General Wellness

How Do You Find Out Your Blood Type?

Blocks with most common blood types labeled on them

You know that blood is essential (albeit sometimes nausea-inducing) to keep you alive, but have you ever stopped to think about why it’s important? Blood circulates through the body delivering essential substances like oxygen and nutrients to cells. It also transports metabolic waste products away from the cells1.

In the event of a medical emergency, you may find yourself in a position where you need a blood transfusion. However, while blood is essential, it’s not created equal and there are different blood types. Do you know what your blood type is and why it matters?

How is blood type determined?

Blood types are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens on your red blood cells2. Antigens are substances that can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body (like food or environmental allergies). The antigens on your red blood cells matter and if you’re given a blood type in a transfusion that does not match, it could cause your body to reject the transfused blood.

How many blood types are there?

There are four major blood groups: Group A, Group B, Group AB and Group O. These groups are determined by the presence or absence of two antigens (A and B), on the surface of red blood cells. Additionally, there is a protein called the Rh factor which can be present or absent which leads to the creation of the eight most common blood types: A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, AB-2. Of the eight most common blood types, AB- is the rarest3.

Out of the types, one, in particular, is considered a universal blood type. That universal blood type is O-. This means that people with O- blood can donate and that blood be used for anybody regardless of blood type. O- is often in high demand because it is used the most in emergency settings2.

Is blood type related to overall health?

Blood type became a hot topic during the COVID-19 pandemic as research was conducted to see if people with certain blood types were more likely to get COVID-194.

Relatedly, this raises the question of whether your blood type has an impact on your overall health. Studies have been conducted to better understand the connection. Some results include5:

  • People with type O have the lowest risk for heart disease while people with types AB and B are at the greatest risk.
  • Blood type can play a role in certain cancers. For example, people with type A or AB are at a higher risk for stomach cancer, while people with types A, B, or AB have greater risks for pancreatic cancer.
  • People with type A blood may have a more challenging time managing stress. Those with type A tend to have higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in their blood.

It’s important to note that none of this information means you’ll develop one of these conditions, it’s just something to be aware of.

How do you find out your blood type?

Like other traits, blood type is a hereditary trait and multiple combinations can exist. You can get a simple blood draw to find out what your blood type is. The test your healthcare provider will order is ABO Rh typing. Your blood sample will be mixed with antibodies against these antigens to determine what your blood type is6.

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