There is a reason why the World Health Organization describes blood donation as “the most precious gift anyone can give to another person.” When donating whole blood, donors typically give one pint per donation session, which can save up to three lives, and individuals are typically eligible to donate every fifty-six days (eight weeks). Donors may also be able to donate platelets only, which can typically be done every seven days, up to twenty-four times a year. However, blood donation does not only benefit the individuals who receive the blood. Donors also experience a number of benefits!
Check out these important health benefits individuals can experience when they donate blood.
Free Blood Tests
Donating blood is one way to get a free blood test. During the donation process, individuals are screened to determine if they are healthy enough to give blood and if they have any blood pressure problems or infections. Their blood is also tested after donation to ensure it is safe to be given to another person. After giving blood, donors can ask to be notified if there are any irregularities in their blood, which can save them a visit to the doctor’s office and, perhaps even a medical bill. A sixty-three-year-old grandmother in the United Kingdom was in the process of donating blood when the preliminary screening process detected irregularities. It turned out she had bowel cancer, which doctors detected at an early stage because of her blood screening test.
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Satisfaction Of Saving Human Lives
Individuals who donate blood experience the mental health benefit of knowing they have helped another person. After receiving a blood transfusion that saved his life when he was young, Australian James Harrison decided to pay it forward and began donating blood as soon as he turned eighteen years old. Since this time, Harrison has made more than 1,100 blood donations over sixty-two years, making him the holder of a Guinness World Recordfor the most blood donations, though he has stopped donating due to his own health. Estimates suggest he has now saved the lives of two million unborn babies because of the rare genetic makeup of his plasma, which can treat Rhesus disease. Not everyone can donate blood as frequently as Harrison has. However, knowing that even a single donation of their blood can save up to three lives gives many a strong sense of satisfaction.
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On average, individuals burn 650 calories during the blood donation process, which is equivalent to the number of calories burned during an average spin class. For this reason, donors must meet minimum weight and age requirements to ensure they can give blood safely. For example, the American Red Cross recommends donors be at least sixteen years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. The body replaces the volume of donated blood within forty-eight hours, a process some individuals describe as an ‘oil-change’ for their body because the surge in new blood allows muscles and organs to function more effectively. Blood donation should never be used as a strategy to lose weight, but the opportunity to burn some extra calories is still a benefit of blood donation most do not expect.
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Reduced Risk Of Heart Disease
An excessive build-up of iron in the body can be dangerous for an individual’s cardiovascular health. Donating blood can help individuals who consume foods rich in iron limit the build-up and oxidation of iron in the body, which has been linked to heart attacks and strokes. Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1998 suggests blood donation is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks, because of reduced iron stores in the body. It also provides evidence indicating regular blood donors are eighty-eight percent less likely than nondonors to have a heart attack.
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Reduced Risk Of Cancer
Studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggest regular blood donors have lower rates of cancer than nondonors. When giving blood, some oxidized iron that has built up in the body is released from the bloodstream. Oxidized iron places stress on organs and accelerate aging. The build-up of iron in the body can also cause cancer. Evidence reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2008 shows lower levels of iron in the body reduce the likelihood of cancerous tumor growth, and as mentioned earlier, regular blood donation reduces iron stores in the body. Although more research is needed to understand the link between regular blood donation and cancer risk, the initial results suggest donating blood has anti-cancer benefits.
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Mini Medical Exam Before Donation
Every individual who gives blood has to have a mandatory health screening to ensure they are healthy enough to donate. This exam is also a precaution to help avoid running into issues with the individual who will be receiving the donor’s blood. Additionally, this exam is at no cost to the person donating. This exam can identify risk factors for certain diseases the individual was unaware of, and it can detect issues that can be indicative of a serious underlying medical condition. During this exam, the donor’s pulse, body temperature, blood pressure levels, and hemoglobin levels are checked. Furthermore, the individual’s blood is screened for several serious diseases that include HIV, hepatitis B, West Nile virus, hepatitis C, syphilis, and Trypanosoma cruzi. Their weight will be checked to ensure they weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and have enough blood volume to donate.
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Reduce Heart Attack Risk
Regular blood donation may help reduce heart attack risk in many individuals. When an individual donates blood, their blood viscosity is decreased., and when blood has a lower viscosity, it does not produce as much friction on the blood vessels, tiny capillaries, and arteries. This mechanism results in less damage to the arterial walls, which is known to cause plaque buildup in the arteries. Overweight and obese individuals have a higher risk of having a heart attack. Donating blood on a regular basis can assist an individual in their weight loss efforts, as mentioned earlier. We also know cardiovascular disease risk is increased when an individual has high blood iron levels, which are known to expedite the process of cholesterol oxidation in the body, causing damage to arteries. Damaged arteries lead to cholesterol and plaque buildup that produces blockages that often result in heart attacks.
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Boost Liver Health
Committed and regular blood donations can boost liver health. The liver has the great responsibility of making sure toxins are quickly and safely eliminated from the body. If the liver cannot perform this function adequately, toxins build up in the individual’s body and produce life-threatening medical issues. Excess iron in the body is effectively packaged up and then deposited in the pancreas, heart, and liver. Iron deposits become toxic to these organs, including the liver itself. The liver is the organ responsible for removing toxins, but it cannot do so when it is filled with toxic iron overload. Excess iron induces cellular damage, resulting in the development of liver cirrhosis. Iron toxicity also damages the DNA of the cells, increasing the probability of malignancy development. Consistent blood donation is helpful to regularly remove excess iron before it has a chance to deposit in vital organs such as the liver. Therefore, regularly donating blood keeps the liver healthy by reducing an individual’s chance of developing liver cirrhosis and cancer of multiple organs.
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Reduces Harmful Stores Of Iron
Clearly, committed donation of blood on a regular basis reduces harmful stores of iron in an individual’s body. Iron is a vital mineral the body absorbs from the diet and utilizes to produce hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen. The recommended intake of iron is less than forty-five milligrams each day. Intake of forty-five milligrams or more every day for an extended duration can lead to a condition called iron overload or hemochromatosis. Excess iron in the body promotes the production of reactive oxygen species and free radicals by the cells that contribute to the development of cancer and other aging diseases. Most individuals affected by hemochromatosis are not aware they have the condition because symptoms overlap those of common conditions and do not manifest until later on in life. Committed, regular blood donors are able to keep this condition from developing because they are frequently eliminating the excess iron from their bodies. Regular blood donors can help reduce cellular damage throughout their body caused by processes of inflammation.