It’s a matter of seconds before someone needs blood. For example, in the US, approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day, according to the Red Cross. Simply put, that’s a lot of blood.
Sickle cell disease or cancer patients require blood transfusions during their treatments, and a single car accident victim may require up to 100 pints (a pint is about half a liter) of blood.
Since blood cannot be produced or manufactured, these patients are dependent on blood donors for their own lives.
This could be something you already knew. You’ve probably seen the billboards and the big mobile blood banks: blood donation drives community halls are often in public view. We often hear about the importance of donating blood relative to the receptors. A blood donation could help up to three patients.
But what are the benefits of donating blood for the donor? We don’t often hear about that side of the arrangement. While the impact is a little less obvious, there are several health benefits that come from donating blood. It turns out that this compassionate choice may also have healthy lifestyle benefits for the donor.
The benefits of donating blood
Maybe you’re considering donating blood, but you’re not sure what effect it will have on your body. Or maybe you’ve done it before and are curious about how it might affect you if you donate regularly. In any case, some of the advantages may surprise you. These are some of the biggest benefits of donating blood.
Donating blood can reveal possible health problems
While not the same as going to the doctor, donating blood can be another way to monitor your cardiovascular health. You’ll receive a mini physical exam before your blood draw, in which someone will check your pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, hemoglobin, and more. This can sometimes shed light on issues you didn’t even know about.
If your blood is too low in iron, the clinic will tell you and you won’t get blood drawn. They’ll also tell you about any other blood problems they notice or if anything seems unusual. An occasional check of the quality of your blood could be the key to detecting a health problem before it becomes life-threatening.
Donating blood can reduce harmful iron stores
One in two hundred people in the US alone is affected by a condition called hemochromatosis, and most don’t even know it. Hemochromatosis is a disease that causes iron overload and is classified as the most common genetic disease among Caucasians.
Donation is recommended as a way to deplete the body’s extra iron stores. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the extraction of red blood cells by phlebotomy (or blood donation) is the preferred treatment for patients with excess iron in the blood.
Donating blood can reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack
You may be surprised to discover that there may be heart health benefits of donating blood. Donating blood at least once a year could reduce the risk of having a heart attack by 88 percent, according to a study by the American Journal of Epidemiology.
High levels of iron in the blood constrict blood vessels and increase the risk of a heart attack. By depleting those extra iron stores through donating blood, your blood vessels have more room to operate.
Donating blood can reduce the risk of developing cancer
In a normal and completely healthy person, the relationship between donating blood and reducing the risk of cancer is weak. But research supports a reduced risk of cancer for blood donors with different diseases, one of which is hemochromatosis.
Phlebotomy (the process of drawing blood) was found to be an iron-reducing method associated with a lower risk of cancer and mortality, according to a study published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute . The study focused on patients affected by peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which is described as a common circulatory problem. PAD patients who regularly donated blood had a lower risk of developing cancer than those who did not.
Donating blood can help your liver stay healthy
Another danger of iron overload is the health of your liver. In recent years, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the hepatic expression of metabolic syndrome, has reached epidemic proportions, reports the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Research has linked excess iron to NAFLD, hepatitis C, and other liver diseases and infections. Although there are many other factors involved in these problems, donating blood can help relieve some of those iron stores and prevent additional liver problems.
Donating blood can help your mental state
Although the blood donation It has several physical benefits, arguably the most powerful health benefit is in the psychological realm. Giving blood means someone (or people) somewhere will get the help they desperately need.
Donating blood, especially on a regular basis, can be similar to volunteer work. You give of your time (and your literal blood) to help strangers in need. If you go to a specific blood donation location each time, you will meet some staff members who are also dedicated to the cause of saving lives.
This type of regular and altruistic interaction has important psychological benefits. Getting out of your usual environment to do something nice for someone else is exhilarating in the best way. Volunteering has been shown to have positive effects on happiness. In people over 65, volunteering also reduces the risk of depression and loneliness.
The psychological health benefit you receive from knowing you are helping others is just as helpful as the physical health benefit. When you roll up your sleeves and sit in that chair, you know you’re making a difference, and that makes you feel good!
Blood donation benefits everyone
The health benefits of donating blood are considerable, but of course the most important part of the process is helping save lives. Giving blood is good for you, and it’s even better for all the people who desperately need your help.
If you don’t mind blood draws or blood sightings, you may want to consider becoming a physician assistant. These professionals save lives every day simply by doing their jobs.