The human heart is a remarkable organ. Every 24 hours, it beats over 100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood. That’s enough to fill an oil tanker! It’s also amazingly resilient. Biologist Alexis Carrel, the winner of the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, concluded that given an optimum supply of nutrients and oxygen, the human heart would be capable of functioning perfectly for over two centuries!
Some of the well-known risk factors for cardiovascular disease include hypertension, tobacco use, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, and high cholesterol. But there is one less recognized factor, which offers both powerful predictive abilities and insight into what we should be eating to maintain optimal heart health - genetics. In particular, blood group genetics.
Your unique blood type can influence your cardiovascular system in many ways. There is a strong correlation between your blood type and your body’s ability to metabolize dietary fats, the thickness of your blood, and even how your body responds to stress. Understanding the relationship between your blood type and your heart can provide vital information for cardiac health.
It’s true that heart disease can affect any blood type, but it is more common among those with Blood Types A and AB. Why? Because people with these blood types have more noticeable problems with high cholesterol. Type As and ABs have lower levels of the enzyme that is responsible for absorbing dietary fats. It is difficult for these blood types to digest red meats, so avoiding them is key.
This isn’t to say that those with Blood Types O and B are protected from heart disease, but their risk factors are less from the fat in their food and more from the fat on their person. These blood types tend to have carbohydrate intolerance. Overconsumption of carbs can lead to higher triglycerides and weight gain. So when they adopt a low fat, high-carb diet, it puts them at greater risk of heart disease. That’s why the conventional wisdom about what constitutes a heart-healthy diet works well for some, but not for others, namely those with Blood Types O and B.
Your blood type also influences the thickness of your blood and its ability to clot. Blood clotting is important when there’s a wound that needs healing, but it can be harmful as well. When there are slight damages inside blood vessels, clots can build up, much like a layer of scabs, and inhibit proper blood flow. Blood Types A and AB form blood clots more readily. They also experience higher incidences of inflammation in the arteries and damaged artery walls. Such irritations make these areas more prone to blood clots.
Stress, of course, is a major risk factor in heart disease, particularly over a prolonged period of time. It can also lead to an increase in other risk factors such as overeating, smoking, and high blood pressure. Of course, it is not the stress itself that causes harm, but the body’s reaction to that stress. While all blood types will respond to stress by secreting more of the stress hormone cortisol, Type Os are on the low end of the scale as compared to more stress-sensitive Type As who have naturally higher levels of cortisol, to begin with.