Marcus Neuroscience Institute Stroke Expert Comments on New Study Linking Stroke Risk to Blood Type

As the number of people suffering strokes at a younger age continues to rise, new research is pointing to a correlation between blood type and the risk of what doctors call “early-onset stroke.” Experts at Marcus Neuroscience Institute, established at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, a part of Baptist Health, say that the study is “very interesting” and opens the door to further research on exactly how one’s blood type may predispose them for an increased risk of stroke before age 60.

The study, published recently in the journal Neurology, revealed that, when compared to people with late stroke and people who had never had a stroke, people with early-onset stroke were 16 percent more likely to have type A blood and 12 percent less likely to have type O, the most common blood type.

These people, the study noted, “are more likely to die from a life-threatening stroke event,” and survivors potentially face decades with disability. In addition, the study found that both early-onset and late stroke patients were more likely to have type B blood compared to control groups.

Researchers emphasized that the increased risk was “very modest” and that those with type A blood “should not worry about having an early-onset stroke or engage in extra screening or medical testing based on this finding.”

Brian Snelling, M.D., director of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery and director of the stroke program at Marcus Neuroscience Institute

Cardiovascular disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S., according to neurosurgeon Brian Snelling, M.D., director of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery and director of the stroke program at Marcus Neuroscience Institute.

When blood flow to the brain is impeded, it can cause ischemic stroke, Dr. Snelling says, and there are typically two ways that can happen. “People who have abnormal heart rhythm conditions such as atrial fibrillation can develop blood clots in the heart. If a clot there were to travel up to the brain – an organ that requires lots of blood to perform its many functions – it could easily cause a stroke,” he explains. “Or, plaque can build up inside the carotid artery in the neck and if it were to rupture, that too could cause a clot and trigger ischemic stroke.”

More research required                                                                                                                               

If there is indeed a group of people at increased risk for stroke because of their blood type, Dr. Snelling says the challenge is to figure out how to mitigate their risk. “That requires a better understanding at the cellular level of how blood type can affect early stroke risk,” he says. “More research is required to understand the mechanisms at work.”

In the meantime, people with type A blood who are concerned that they may be at increased risk for early stroke are encouraged to make lifestyle changes that can mitigate those risks, says Dr. Snelling. “That would include the standard recommendations of maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol consumption and eliminating tobacco,” says Dr. Snelling. “But these are things you should be doing any way, regardless of your blood type.”

Marcus Neuroscience Institute on the campus of Boca Raton Regional Hospital, a part of Baptist Health

If you think you or someone you are with is suffering a stroke, Dr. Snelling says to call 9-1-1 immediately. “Where you’re taken depends on where you live, of course, but Marcus Neuroscience Institute is a certified comprehensive stroke center, which means we have the personnel, procedures and technology necessary to be able to provide the best possible care for stroke patients,” he says. “Our clinical facilities, including our state-of-the-art operating rooms and neuro-interventional radiology suites, are the best in the region and allow us to quickly diagnose and treat stroke or any other type of neurovascular condition.”

Dr. Snelling says that another advantage offered by Marcus Neuroscience Institute is that it can connect patients with clinical trials researching the latest and most advanced therapies. “We’re actively enrolling patients in clinical trials – studies that have the potential not only to save lives but also to further our knowledge of stroke and its treatment,” he says.

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