Most people donate blood in order to help other people, and one single time of donating can save up to three lives.
Yet, only about 10% of Americans donate blood annually, even though they are eligible to do so. If you are thinking about the reasons for this, you might find it interesting that, according to the American Red Cross, most people do not donate blood as they have “never thought about it” or “don’t like needles.”
However, this practice is much more than your fear or needles or neglect, as it might actually save the lives of others. I There is a daily need of 41,000 blood donations, and blood donors are the only way blood can be supplied.
However, there are also 4 benefits of donating blood for you too:
- Balance Iron Levels in Your Blood
The body loses ¼ of a gram of iron for each unit of donated blood, which can be beneficial, as excessive iron is far worse than iron deficiency. (especially in men and postmenopausal women).
For instance, menstruating women and blood donors have a significantly lower risk of heart attacks. According to researchers:
“Because high body iron stores have been suggested as a risk factor for acute myocardial infarction, donation of blood could theoretically reduce the risk by lowering body iron stores.”
A study published in the April 2013 issue of American Journal of Public Health, showed that statin cholesterol-lowering drugs fought the pro-inflammatory effects of excessive iron levels in the body and thus improved cardiovascular outcomes at least partially.
Participants had lower ferritin (iron) levels but not with “improved” lipid status, so this is a safe and inexpensive way to replace statins.
- Improved Blood Flow
Constant stress, smoking, anxiety, high cholesterol levels, high-sugar diets, radio frequencies, and high uric acid levels lead to blood coagulation, which raises the risk of blood clotting and stroke.
Moreover, hypercoagulable blood leads to inflammation, as the blood flow is weak and oxygen cannot get to the tissues. On the other hand, the blood flow is improved by repeated blood donations.
Phillip DeChristopher, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Loyola University Health System blood bank, explained:
“What is clear is that blood donors seem to not be hospitalized so often and if they are, they have shorter lengths of stay… And they’re less likely to get heart attacks, strokes, and cancers.”
- A Longer Life
Altruistic people live much longer than those who donate blood due to some self-centered reasons. The first ones have a greatly lower risk of mortality four years later, as shown in one study. The lead author noted:
“This could mean that people who volunteer with other people as their main motivation may be buffered from potential stressors associated with volunteering, such as time constraints and lack of pay.”
- A Mini Physical
Prior to the donation, blood donors get a “mini physical”, as their temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin are checked. Also, the blood is tested for 13 infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and West Nile Virus.
Excessive Iron Levels
Iron is a vital part of proteins and enzymes, and plays many important roles, like transporting oxygen and regulating cell growth and differentiation.
It also provides hemoglobin, needed to bind to oxygen and carry it throughout the tissues, and ensure their survival.
Iron might start accumulating in some body organs like the heart, pancreas, and liver, and since it is a powerful oxidizer, it might damage the tissues and cause severe health issues.
Excessive iron levels have been found to be related to Type 1 diabetes, cirrhosis, viral and bacterial infections, liver cancer, Alzheimer’s, and cardiac arrhythmias.
Therefore, it is of high importance to screen your iron levels every year and prevent iron overload.
Hemochromatosis is one of the leading genetic diseases in the US, and it is believed to be a result of the C282Y gene mutation.
For the disease to develop, there is a need of two inherited copies of the mutation (one from your mother and one from your father). People with this disease accumulate more iron in the body.
A serum ferritin test is a simple blood test which will check your iron levels. It estimates the carrier molecule of iron, a protein found inside cells, also known as ferritin, which stores the iron, and its reduced levels indicate low iron levels in the blood.
Experts claim that the healthy range of serum ferritin is between 20 and 80 ng/ml, and the ideal range is somewhere between 40-60 ng/ml. Therefore, anything below 20 is considered to be a sign of iron deficiency, while anything above 80 indicates an iron surplus.
Factors for Iron Overload
Despite the hemochromatosis patients, most adult men and postmenopausal women are more prone to iron overload. The regular intake of alcohol is another factor which might boost the absorption of iron in the diet
High iron levels might also be a result of:
- Drinking water rich in iron, so you should use an iron precipitator or a reverse osmosis water filter
- Cooking in iron pots or pans, as it will increase the degree of iron absorption
- The consumption of processed food products such as cereals and white breads that are “fortified’ with iron, as it is inorganic, and is highly dangerous.
- The use of vitamins and mineral supplements, as they are high in iron.
Therefore, despite being a virtuous way to help others, blood donating is the safest and best way to solve the issues with hemochromatosis or high iron levels in the body.
Yet, make sure you avoid consuming too much iron through your diet, in the form of supplements, from iron cookware, processed foods, or in drinking water.