Health & Injuries

Why It’s So Important For Runners to Know Their Blood Type!

by On Jul 7, 2016

The word's most common human blood type is type O positive, and the rarest is Type AB negative.

Why It's So Important For Runners to Know Their Blood Type!

If the only thing you know about blood types is that everyone has one, you could be in for fascinating surprises when you read this article since we’re going to introduce you to everything you need to know about your blood type and why having that knowledge is critical.

After all, your life could depend on being able to notify a medical practitioner of your particular type fast, and you’re just about to find out why.

A History of Mystery

Scientists believe that the most common blood groups — A, B and O - have been around for at least 20 million years, but the mystery of how and why they came about remains an intriguing puzzle for researchers exploring the topic.

The first major breakthrough came about in the early 1900s when Austrian doctor Karl Landsteiner won a Nobel Prize for being the first to identify blood types.

The scientific community built on Landsteiner’s groundbreaking work and in addition to adding type B to the major category, there are now 33 blood types and this science has become so sophisticated, researchers have recently announced that they’ve unearthed hundreds of antigens that “fall into 33 recognised antigen systems, many of which can cause dangerous reactions during transfusion.”

But for purposes of your own edification, the Red Cross states that you need only concern yourself with these four:

  • Blood Group A (only A antigen on red cells; B antibody in plasma
  • Blood Group B (only B antigen on red cells; A antibody in plasma
  • Blood Group AB (both A and B antigens on red cells; neither A nor B antibody in plasma)
  • Blood Group O (has neither A nor B antigens on red cells; A and B antibodies in plasma)

Why Blood Type Matters

Why It's So Important For Runners to Know Their Blood Type!

Photo Credit: 123RF

The most important reason to know your blood type has to do with avoiding direct blood transfusions from other people in emergencies because if you are given the wrong type, your life is literally put on the line.

Transfusions can only be given to those whose blood is in the same classification as yours, so don’t count on your best running buddy to help you out if you need a transfusion of Type A blood and he’s Type B.

What happens to your body if you receive a transfusion of the wrong type of blood? Your immune system immediately reacts to foreign antigens like an army sensing the enemy at the gates.

In fairly quick succession, your immune system immediately starts to shut down, you are vulnerable to every infection and virus in the vicinity and as your body keeps fighting incompatible blood, even your organs can start shutting down. Imagine how bad this could be for someone who is already in fragile condition.

Can Blood Type Determine Your Personality?

Why It's So Important For Runners to Know Their Blood Type!

Photo Credit: 123RF

As a runner, you already know that it’s possible to meet people who are introverted, extroverted or somewhere in-between, but in some Asian cultures, people believe that blood type determines personality.

This belief system originated in Japan but it has gathered supporters throughout Asia.

This personality-based belief system attributes specific qualities to blood types. For example, if you are an A, you are assumed to be an anxious team player.

Type Bs are cheerful, eccentric and selfish, so don’t look for a B to help you during a marathon if your leg cramps up.

Type O personalities are curious, generous and stubborn, while ABs are personality typed as artsy, mysterious and unpredictable.

In other words, if you need a t-shirt designed for an upcoming race, don’t expect it to be delivered on time if the designer is Type AB!

How far has this personality-blood type movement gone? It’s being used by dating sites, magazine publishers, TV show hosts seeking unusual lifestyle segments and the phenomenon of blood type has even become part of the rarified air of anime and manga, with video games based on blood type, too!

If you’re not buying any of this, join millions of sceptics who see this as entertaining but highly illogical; those convinced blood typing belongs exclusively in the realm of science rather than mainstream culture.

Further, there's a dark side to blood typing based on personality: In some circles, people are shunned because of their blood type. This type of prejudice, known in Japan as bura-hara, is both sad and discriminatory.

Are You What You Eat?

Should people with certain blood types, who want to perform at optimal levels, be trained according to their type? It's an interesting theory that grabbed international attention at the Beijing Olympics when Japan used blood typing to customise athlete training and conditioning programmes and to decide which athletes did and didn't make different teams.

But don't believe for a minute that this blood-typing craze was limited to the Pacific Rim: American naturopath Peter D’Adamo published a book in 1996 called “Eat Right for Your Type” and it became a bestseller.

D'Adamo's thesis states that ancient hunters were Type O, requiring meat-rich diets while Type As are more likely to thrive as vegetarians. Type Bs have Himalayan highland roots and can eat a mixed diet.

Based on this premise, D'Amado insists that if people follow their blood type diet to the letter, their chances of contracting cancer and diabetes are lessened and they will stay healthier and more fit. He also purports that a blood type-specific diet can slow down the ageing process and armour the body against infections.

As a runner, you already follow a healthy diet in all likelihood and your choice of foods is going to be determined by your appetite, your cravings and your ability to strike a balance based on your body’s nutritional requirements, so you might not be shocked to learn that D’Adamo’s theories have made him a millionaire, yet there have been no clinical trials conducted that prove the validity of his eating plans.

The Newest Discoveries

Why It's So Important For Runners to Know Their Blood Type!

Photo Credit: 123RF

New information about blood type is being found every day. For example, in the early 1950s, scientists unearthed the Bombay phenotype, a rare but distinct blood type found in people with no ABO traces in their blood. Other statistical studies show a correlation between blood type and disease.

Scientists say Type A blood groups are more prone to getting cancer, heart disease and malaria, while Type Os are less likely to contract malaria than the other groups. By the way, Type O runners, research proves, are more susceptible to ruptured Achilles tendons than the other types.

Molecular biology has changed the face of blood typing fairly recently: In the 1990s, researchers found a single ABO gene that is part of everyone’s blood type that looks as though it may hold an important key to finding out how one person winds up with one blood type yet a close relative winds up with another.

Danish scientists recently found a link between people with Type A and B blood and deep vein thrombosis, a condition that causes blood clots in the legs to break free and travel to the lungs and heart.

Some of this research is focused on primate-to-human evolutionary changes, since Chimpanzees have either A or O blood while gorillas are Type B only.

Those who deny a relationship between primates and humans are in for some shocks in the near future as this topic continues to be mined for answers to the age-old question of how humans wind up with one blood type over another.

Why All of This Matters

Why It's So Important For Runners to Know Their Blood Type!

Photo Credit: 123RF

You never know when you’re going to wind up in an accident, be the victim of a crime or find yourself in dire need of blood transfusions.

Knowing all that you have learned from this article, do you want to waste precious time being cross-matched for surgery or medical procedures? Knowing your blood type has more than just your survival at stake; it also offers you these benefits:

  1. While all blood types are susceptible to coronary heart disease, Types AB, A and B are more at risk than O, so staying in shape and running to get good exercise are even more important to keep you healthy.
  2. If you’re trying to get pregnant and you are a Type O woman, you may have fewer eggs than other blood types. This information alone can help you run the fertility clinic process gauntlet.
  3. Running to relieve stress is one of the best stomach cancer preventative moves you can make if you have Type A blood because you may be more prone to higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
  4. Having an Rh-risk test before giving birth has saved the lives of countless babies, whether you are Rh positive or negative. For this reason alone, many doctors advise mothers to bank their own blood just in case it’s needed even before getting pregnant.
  5. It’s becoming more common for people facing surgery to bank their own blood for future use, especially for those who have one of the rarer types. According to the Red Cross, the rarest of all blood types among Asian peoples is AB- followed by B-, A-and O-. Only 0.1-percent of all Asians fall into the AB- universe.
  6. You can save someone’s life if you know your blood type upfront and an urgent call goes out to the public seeking donors. If you happen to be in the O group, your blood is even more critically needed because both O+ and O- types are universal donors, of which 0- donors are the most valuable of all.

Next time when you are asked to fill in your blood type during registering for an event. Please do so accurately and with a smile.

Has knowing your blood type helped another person? We’d love to hear your story.

Aidan is the Editor-in-Chief of RunSociety. With more than a decade of editorial and marketing experience working with over 1,124 writers. Aidan has also written for several popular websites with millions of readers. Recognised as an expert on the web, his focus is to oversee RunSociety’s Creativity Channel, spanning a wide range of inspirational and enriching topics daily to the running community.

Get in touch with him if you have something to say, or want to weigh in on an interesting topic at hello@runsociety.com.

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