Do you know your blood type?

5:54 PM, Aug 1, 2011   |    comments
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Dick Benjamin

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Do you know your blood type? It might not seem like an important detail to know but it is one that can save your life in an emergency.

In the entire world there are only eight different blood types found in the human body, and they are specific to our different heritages.

"The northern European is most likely an A. The Mediterranean individuals are most likely O's. Then if you get into the Polish, Latvian and African American countries you get mostly B's," says Lee Ann Weitekamp, medical director for MI Blood in Grand Rapids.

The most common blood type is O-positive -- 39% of the world's population has it. A-positive is the second most common at 31%. After those two the numbers go down drastically. Only 9% of the population has B-positive and O-negative, 6% have A-negative, 3% AB-positive, 2% B-negative and only 1% of the world's population has AB-negative blood.

"With the heavy Dutch population in this area, we're more likely to be A's," says Weitekamp. 

She says hospitals will always make sure you're matched with your specific blood type, unless there's an emergency. That's where the universal blood donor O-negative comes in. Anyone with O-negative blood can safely give to any blood type.

"Although type O-negative makes up only 9% of the general population we use over 20% of that type in terms of what the hospitals need." says Weitekamp.

The drawback? O-negative blood types can only accept O-negative blood.

"If I give you my blood, which has the a marker on it, your antibody attaches to those red blood cells and then pops them right inside your blood vessels," says Weitekamp.

But she says you should not worry -- getting the wrong blood type is not something that's likely to happen now that type testing has become a standard part of blood collection and donation.

"When we look to transfuse blood we try to make it what we call type specific," says Weitekamp.

It takes about two to three weeks for your body to replenish your blood supply once you donate, but you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that your blood went to help save a life.

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