Blood Types and Cognitive Decline
Blood is a fluid in the body that carries oxygen and nutrients to cells while helping with the removal of carbon dioxide. All of us have it in our body and though everyone’s blood may look the same, your blood is actually categorized into one of four types: A, B, AB, and O. Knowing your blood type is important for blood transfusion procedures, but as of recent, your blood type may reveal your chances of cognitive decline.
As we age, our brain starts to make changes in size and cognition. Typically, our brains will shrink and go through several molecular and physical changes. One of the first signs of cognitive decline is when the volume size of grey matter reduces. Grey matter is a dark tissue composed of nerve cell bodies and it is located in the brain and spinal cord. Reduced volume of this tissue can become a problem since grey matter plays an important role in processing information.
You might be thinking, how does my blood type relate to grey matter/cognitive decline? Well, Professor Annalena Venneri and research fellow Matteo De Marco from the University of Sheffield discovered that blood types may influence the volume size of grey matter. After analyzing 189 Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans from healthy participants with different blood types, grey matter volumes were calculated and compared to one another.
Outcomes and Findings
Based on the MRI scans, Venneri and De Marco found that participants with an O blood type have a higher volume of grey matter in the posterior region of the cerebellum. The cerebellum receives information from the spinal cord, sensory systems, and other parts of the brain in order to regulate motor movement. The cerebellum is one part of the brain that is affected by age related cognitive diseases.
Further, non-O (A, B, AB) blood types had smaller volumes of grey matter in the temporal and limbic areas of the brain. The results revealed that grey matter volume was smaller in the left hippocampus which is known to be one of the earliest parts impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.
I Don’t Have An O-Blood Type, What Now?
If your blood type is A, B or AB, do not fear and if you have an O blood type, do not think that you are resistant to diseases like Alzheimer’s. This study may suggest that those with an O blood type are more protected against cognitive decline however, other biological mechanisms may be involved which is why further research needs to be done.
While you cannot choose which blood type you are born with, you do have control over non-genetic risk factors. Diabetes, high-blood pressure, smoking cigarettes and being overweight or obese are all associated with faster declines in brain volume. Exercising and having a healthy diet will not only improve your physical health but it can prevent you from future cognitive decline.