Many people fear giving blood. Some are afraid of needles. Some don’t like the sight of the red stuff. Others fear they’ll lose too much blood or pass out. But, surprisingly, there are many health benefits of donating blood.
LOWERS RISK OF HEART DISEASE
We all should know by now that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. So, anything we can do to reduce that risk is a keeper.
Between the sexes, women’s risk of heart disease is lower due to lower levels of iron during childbearing years. Since men don’t menstruate, their iron stores are typically higher, which puts them at increased risk of heart disease.
But one study showed that non-smoking men could reduce their risk of heart disease by donating blood. Through blood donation, men were able to lower their iron levels and ward off the atherosclerosis.
Since women tend to have a lower iron stores, it’s best to talk with your doctor before donating.
PROMOTES RED BLOOD CELL RENEWAL
At each blood donation visit, you can donate about a pint of blood. The loss of blood prompts your bones to start the regeneration process. The plasma in your blood returns within 24 hours, but it takes from four to six weeks for the red blood cells to repopulate.
The red blood cell life cycle averages at about 115 days. By donating blood, you’re passing on your red blood cells and encouraging your body to make fresh, new red blood cells. All in the middle of the life cycle. This ensures your blood performs at optimal levels.
IMPROVES BLOOD FLOW
Do you know what birth control pills, estrogen use, bed rest or inactivity, inflammation, diabetes, obesity, cancer and advanced age all have in common? They can cause your blood to become thick and slow. Which can lead to increased risk of heart attack or stroke from blood clot formation.
When you donate blood you lower your blood volume. Plasma regenerates in 24 hours and adds fluid back into your blood without the added viscosity of red blood cells. Over time, your red blood cells regenerate. And if your body continues to endure these same stressors, then it will return to a thick and slow state.
You can donate blood up to 24 times a year.
REDUCES HARMFUL IRON STORES
You might not think of iron as harmful. All too often, plant eaters struggle to replenish their iron stores or women work to maintain appropriate levels during childbearing years.
But doctors frequently suggest not to take over-the-counter iron supplements unless directed to do so. Too much iron in the body can lead to heart problems, liver disease and even diabetes
Unfortunately, there are some individuals whose bodies naturally store iron in excess. This inherited disease is called hemochromatosis. For these individuals, doctors use blood donation as a means to offload excess iron.
REDUCES CANCER RISK
In the blood, iron clings to hemoglobin in the red blood cell and carries oxygen throughout the body. When iron isn’t attached to hemoglobin it floats in the bloodstream, which causes the development of free radicals.
Free radicals are a normal part of energy creation. But when out of balance, free radicals create oxidative stress and breakdown parts of the body. It’s the breakdown of tissue that cause cells to go rogue and create cancer.
Fortunately, studies show that participants who donate blood and reduce iron stores had lower risk of cancer.
If you aren’t the queasy type and don’t mind needles, then donating blood could be a good health move. Plus, you’re helping out those in need which boosts feelings of satisfaction and a job well done.
Should you choose to donate you can find locations in your city. Simply stop by and plan to stay for about an hour. The process of donating blood itself doesn’t take long—about 10-15 minutes. The rest of the time is used for a physical, to fill out paperwork and to provide your medical history.