What is a blood type?
Your blood type is something that you need to know when either you or a loved one requires an emergency blood transfusion. Other than that, it is not something everyone knows or even thinks about... But it should be. If you don't know your blood type, you can find out by having a simple blood type test.
Your blood type determines a lot about you. There are four types of blood, these being A, B, AB and O. These are collectively known as the ABO group and are thought to have come from one gene with three variations, being A, B and O. This gene is said to have stemmed from our distant ancestors, evolving over millions of years.
Your parents determine what your blood type will be, making this a trait that is inherited.
To explain your blood type in simple terms, it is a classification based on whether or not antibodies and inherited antigenic substances exist in your blood. The latter refers to the presence of a specific set of molecules known as antigens, that can elicit a response from the immune system. Antigens are found on the surface of red blood cells (RBCs) and are the substances that allow your body to differentiate between foreign cells and its own cells.
An immune system response occurs when foreign cells enter the body, the immune system recognises these cells as foreign and in doing so, tries to destroy them. Therefore, if blood or bacteria enters your body with antigens that the immune system recognises as foreign, your body will create antibodies to get rid of them. However, not all antigens are marked as foreign invaders and some can be accepted by the body. These antigens can be from a number of different sources, such as a blood transfusion (transferring blood from one person to another) or an organ transplant.
For example, if in the very unlikely event that someone with the blood type A is to receive blood from someone who is blood type B, the immune system will determine these antigens to be foreign and create antibodies, which are immune proteins, to respond and destroy the B antigens. This results in the red blood cells clumping together, causing clotting, which can lead to the patient suffering from severe consequences such as circulatory system and kidney failure, shock and even death. That is why knowing your blood type is so important for situations that require an immediate transfusion or other emergency circumstances.
In addition to knowing your blood type in the event of emergency situations, research has shown that there may be a link between your blood type and your overall health. The following article explores this link and also explains what blood typing means.
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