by Matt Weik
Donating blood is a great way to do something good and potentially save a life. If your blood matches someone’s in need, what you donated can be put into that individual in the event that they underwent blood loss whether from surgery or an accident. Thousands of lives are saved every year because people went out and donated blood when they were able. What some of these people don’t realize are the health benefits for the donor. This article showcases some of those benefits and will hopefully get you out there to donate soon.
Let’s talk about how it can help others, first…
It’s a crazy statistic but the American Red Cross has reported that just about every two seconds someone in the United States is in need of blood. That would mean every single day the US would need on average around 44,000 blood donations. Just one donation taking upwards of an hour of your day can save as many as three lives. It is recommended that you can donate blood every two months if possible. So, in a year’s timeframe, you could save 18 lives. How powerful is that when you think about it? You, one individual, can save around 18 lives in just one year. Pretty astonishing.
What is the process of donating blood?
Before donating blood, be sure to drink plenty of water and have a light meal prior. You’ll need two forms of identification as well in order to donate. If you are taking any medications at the time of your donation, please remember to write down the names on a piece of paper and take that with you to the donation site.
Step 1: Registration – before you actually donate blood, you need to complete paperwork on yourself as well as show your ID.
Step 2: Physical – you will be asked some confidential and private questions about your health by the nurse or medical staff who will be taking your blood. They will also check your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and hemoglobin levels in a quick sample of blood to make sure you qualify to donate that day.
Step 3: Donation – here, you get to sit back and relax while the staff takes your blood. The process is extremely sterile and safe. The medical staff will also stay with you during the entire process to ensure your safety and to be there if for some reason you begin to not feel well.
Step 4: Post Donation Party – while not truly a party, it’s a time to celebrate to not only helping save lives, but to help improve your heath as well—we’ll talk about the health benefits in just a second. After you are done donating, you will be given something to eat as well as a drink. The medical staff generally recommends that you stay at the facility anywhere from 10-15 minutes after donating to ensure you are feeling well and are able to leave to go on with your day.
What health benefits can be had by YOU for donating blood?
1. Lower your risk of heart disease
Men, heart disease is a huge killer our demographic. When we don’t donate blood, we accumulate iron in our bodies. Iron helps promote free radicals in the body that can do damage to our cells—either morphing them or killing them. When we eat red meat on a regular basis, we put our iron levels through the roof. Excess iron in the body will get stored in the liver, pancreas, and heart. This can increase your chances of heart disease. For that reason, start donating blood to remove some of the iron from your system.
2. Lower your risk of cancer
As mentioned above, excess iron in the body causes free radicals to form which can alter cells and cause some forms of cancer. When you remove excess iron from your system every eight weeks (two months) it allows your body a chance to stabilize without the need to be fighting off excess free radicals due to a large amount of iron in the body. Healthy levels of iron are necessary to maintain your overall health and reduce the risk of cancer.
3. Lower your risk of liver damage
Excess iron that is stored in the body can go directly to an organ such as the liver. The constant excess supply of iron can have some damaging effects on the liver such as cirrhosis. In order to prevent damaging your liver, you need to keep your iron levels under control. This can be done through regularly donating blood every two months or by limiting foods that contain a lot of iron such as red meat.
4. Improved health
When you donate blood, your body produces new blood cells. This donation process is almost like detoxifying the body and allowing new blood cells to be formed. When you replace what was lost with new cells, it helps you maintain overall better health when compared to not donating and potentially having damaged or morphed cells in your body that can cause many different illnesses and diseases. It’s also said that those who regularly donate blood also don’t seem to be hospitalized as often and if they are, it’s for a much shorter stay when compared to individuals who don’t donate blood.
5. Lower the risk of blockages
When you don’t donate blood, you risk the chance of your blood becoming thick—think about high viscosity. When the oil in your car gets old it starts becoming thicker and doesn’t flow seamlessly through your engine. When that happens, what can it cause? Your motor to stop functioning. The same thing can happen inside your body. When the viscosity of your blood is high, it doesn’t flow and can create a blockage which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Reduce the amount of blood you have in your body by donating and relieve some of the pressure on your blood vessels and their lining. It allows the blood to flow more easily throughout the body.
6. It’s a free “check-up”
Nothing will replace your doctor by any stretch of the imagination, but between well-visits you can donate blood and have several different tests completed free of charge. There are 13 different tests that your blood is checked for such as HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, West Nile Virus, and other infectious diseases. Should any of those tests come back as positive, they will notify you immediately. Before your blood is taken, they will check your blood pressure as well to ensure that is in the healthy range. On top of those, your body temperature along with hemoglobin will be checked as well. This is just an added precaution that they can look at to ensure you don’t have any illnesses that need medical attention.
7. Burn some extra calories
Who wouldn’t like to burn some extra calories for minimal effort and sitting in a chair? I know my hand is raised in the air—probably yours too. On average, people burn around 650 calories when they are donating a pint of blood. While this isn’t a significant number, if you donate blood every eight weeks that number can turn into 3,900 calories by the end of the year (potentially saving you a pound of weight gain). This shouldn’t be perceived as a weight loss plan by any stretch of the imagination nor should it be used strictly for such. The calories used are actually from the body replenishing itself.