People with an extremely rare blood type could be at a higher risk for developing memory problems later in life. A new study published in the journal Neurology says people with AB blood type could be up to 82 percent more likely to develop problems with cognition and memory as they age.
Researchers examined data from a study of over 30,000 people aged 45 and up. They identified a cohort of 495 people who developed memory or cognitive impairment over approximately three-and-a-half years. The participants were given four cognitive tests over the course of the study. They were compared to a similar group of 587 adults who did not have any signs of memory problems.
While only 4 percent of the U.S. population has AB blood, 6 percent of the cohort with memory problems had this blood type. Researchers concluded that in this study people with AB blood type were 82 percent more likely to develop thinking and memory problems than people with any of the three other blood types.
Interestingly enough, the researchers also discovered that people with higher levels of factor VIII, a protein which helps clot blood, were almost a quarter more likely to have cognitive problems than those with lower levels. People with blood type AB were generally found to have higher levels of the protein than others.
"Our study looks at blood type and risk of cognitive impairment, but several studies have shown that factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes increase the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia," study author Mary Cushman of the University of Vermont said in a release. "Blood type is also related to other vascular conditions like stroke, so the findings highlight the connections between vascular issues and brain health. More research is needed to confirm these results."
As Cushman mentioned, other studies have looked at the link between blood types and increased likelihood of certain diseases. A 2012 study conducted by Harvard University researchers concluded that AB blood types have a 23 percent higher chance of developing coronary heart disease compared to O blood types. And in line with researchers finding that AB blood types have higher levels of factor VIII, a study from 2013 found because of this, those people are at a higher risk for developing dangerous blood clots.
So what if you have AB blood type? Don't panic, experts say. Head of Alzheimer's Research UK, Simon Ridley said the study did not look at the direct link between blood type and dementia. "Current evidence suggests the best ways to keep the brain healthy are a balanced diet, not smoking and regular exercise," Ridley told the BBC.