What can our blood tell us about our memory and thinking process? The red liquid coursing through our veins has more power over our brain function than scientists originally thought. A three-year research study has found individuals with blood type AB were twice as likely to experience memory problems as those with type O blood. The findings should come as no alarming news, according to experts, because there are other factors that impact dementia and memory risks more than blood types.
“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,” the study’s lead researcher Dr. Mary Cushman from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, told the BBC. “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.”
Researchers examined 495 participants who had developed thinking, memory, or other cognitive problems and compared them to 587 people who had no cognitive problems. Those who had AB blood type made up six percent of the entire group and they were the ones who experienced cognitive impairment. In addition, they were 82 percent more likely to have difficulties with everyday memory recall, language, and attention, which are all signals of progressive memory deficit dementia.
“Current evidence suggests the best ways to keep the brain healthy are a balanced diet, not smoking, and regular exercise,” Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, told BBC. He added that the research did not look at risk of dementia specifically and that further research was needed in order to make a definitive link between AB blood type and the risk of dementia.
Previous research has found that blood type AB can affect blood clotting characteristic and the risk of blood vessel-related conditions due to its higher levels of clotting protein VIII. It helps to clot the blood and stop bleeding, but those with blood type AB clot too easily and can potentially lead to heart attacks, stroke, or other vein clogging. Still, those who have this blood type should be more afraid of what smoking or other bad health practices are doing to their body to decrease their memory function and ability to process thoughts.
“People who have AB blood type should not be overly worried about these findings, since the association we saw was relatively small and requires other research for confirmation,” Cushman said. Finding a link does not mean that one has caused the other until it can be repeated through clinical trials and proven. Until it’s been shown through research, maintain a healthy lifestyle of regular exercise, not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and controling blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Source: Alexander KS, Zakai NA, Gillett S, McClure LA, Wadley V, Cushman M, et al. ABO blood type, factor VIII, and incident cognitive impairment in the REGARDS cohort. Neurology. 2014.