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This Blood Type Puts You at Risk for Dementia

People with a certain blood type are at a slightly higher risk for dementia, study reveals. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Dementia is a brain disorder that affects an estimated 55 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organization. The condition is becoming more common and while age is a leading risk factor, people under 65 can also have dementia, which causes memory loss, mood changes, getting lost in familiar places and more. Being aware of other risk factors like lack of sleep, poor diet, social isolation and not enough exercise can make a difference, but so does knowing your blood type, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


This Blood Type Increases Your Risk of Dementia

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According to a study published in the September 10, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, "AB is the least common blood type, found in about 4 percent of the U.S. population. The study found that people with AB blood were 82 percent more likely to develop the thinking and memory problems that can lead to dementia than people with other blood types. Previous studies have shown that people with type O blood have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, factors that can increase the risk of memory loss and dementia."


AB Blood Type and Factor VIII

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The study noted that the reason why people with the blood type AB are at a slightly higher risk is because factor VIII. "Researchers also looked at blood levels of factor VIII, a protein that helps blood to clot. High levels of factor VIII are related to higher risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. People in this study with higher levels of factor VIII were 24 percent more likely to develop thinking and memory problems than people with lower levels of the protein. People with AB blood had a higher average level of factor VIII than people with other blood types."


How the Study Worked

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Researchers stated, "The study was part of a larger study (the REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke, or REGARDS Study) of more than 30,000 people followed for an average of 3.4 years. In those who had no memory or thinking problems at the beginning, the study identified 495 participants who developed thinking and memory problems, or cognitive impairment, during the study. They were compared to 587 people with no cognitive problems."


Other Dementia Risk Factors to Consider

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It's important to know all of the risk factors and the study makes mention of that. "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," said study author Mary Cushman, MD, MSc, of the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington. "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."


What to Know About Dementia


Quinn Kennedy, PhD, a Research psychologist who specializes in cognitive aging with QK Consulting tells us, "Dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells; this damage can be due to genetics, certain lifestyle habits, or from traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, age is the biggest risk factor for dementia.  For example, 5% of people aged 65 – 74 have dementia compared to 33% of those aged 85 year or older. People with Type II diabetes and middle-aged adults with obesity also have an increased risk for dementia.  Scientists posit that both diseases lead to neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration."


Getting Regular Exercise Helps

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Quinn explains, "Regular physical exercise is the best thing you can do to prevent dementia.  One 44 year longitudinal study found that women who had excellent physical fitness in their 40s were 88% less likely to develop dementia as compared to women who had moderate physical fitness in their 40s.  Fifty percent of women who had very poor physical fitness in their 40s went on to develop dementia."

30 minutes of physical activity five days is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. " Each week adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity, according to the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather