Perks of Donating Blood

When you give blood, you give a priceless and precious gift. According to the American Red Cross, someone needs blood in the United States every two seconds, and a single car accident victim can require up to 100 pints. Each donation can help save the lives of up to three people in need of transfusions.
 
Beyond the obvious life-saving benefits for others, did you know that giving blood could also benefit your health? Here are five surprising advantages of donating.
 
#1. Regulation of Iron Levels
 
Every time you give blood, you lose approximately a quarter of a gram of iron, which is then replenished in the following days and weeks. This helps keep iron at a manageable level and prevents blood vessels from getting overtaxed, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, the American Journal of Epidemiology reports that blood donors have an 88 percent reduced risk of heart disease.
 
However, you must have a certain level of iron in your blood to qualify as a donor. Pre-menopausal women and those suffering from anemia may need to take an iron supplement or eat an iron-rich diet before they can donate.
 
#2. Improved Circulation
 
If you have slow blood flow, you have a higher risk of developing many health conditions. These can range from milder maladies—like high blood pressure, cramping, dizziness and numbness—to more serious issues like blood clots, strokes, heart disease and organ damage. And because your blood can't deliver as much oxygen to your muscles, your ability to run and exercise will be diminished.
 
Regular donations could help boost your circulation, which will put less strain on the blood vessels and help prevent blockages. Healthy blood flow also has some ancillary benefits, such as more efficient distribution of nutrients throughout the body, the ability to exercise for periods of time before muscle fatigue and a more stable body temperature.
 
#3. Reduced Cancer Risk
 
According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, excess iron levels have been shown to increase the risk of developing certain types of cancers. When you give blood, iron levels are depleted, which theoretically lowers this risk. Over a period of 4 1/2 years, a group of 600 people who had bi-annual blood draws were shown to have lower iron levels, and therefore less cancer risk, than another group of 600 who did not give blood.
 
#4. Extra Health Check
 
Before donating blood, you're required to get a mini-physical. The medical staff will check your pulse, temperature and blood pressure, and will take a small blood sample to test your iron levels. You'll also disclose your medical history and any recent travel destinations.
 
After you've made your donation, your blood will be tested for multiple infectious diseases, including Hepatitis B and C, HIV and West Nile virus. The Red Cross also analyzes your blood for any atypical or unusual red cell antibodies. If anything abnormal is found, you'll be notified immediately.
 
Of course, these screenings shouldn't be used as a substitute for regular visits with your primary doctor, but they still provide a little extra reassurance that all is well on the health front.
 
#5. Weight Loss
 
While you shouldn't give blood as part of a weight loss plan, it does have the side benefit of burning extra calories. The University of California in San Diego approximates that every pint of donated blood expends about 650 calories.
 
In less than an hour, you can save lives while giving yourself a health boost. For more information on giving blood, visit the American Red Cross.
 
Have you registered as a blood donor? What inspired you to give blood, and have you noticed any health benefits?
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Member Comments

Great Report
Like another poster, I feel sick afterward. Nearly always borderline anemic or anemic too, and it seems to take me over six months to bounce back and feel healthy again. On top of all that, the Red Cross always blows up my veins (which is more painful than you would think). So if you have tiny blood vessels and/or prone to anemia, AND it takes you a while to bounce back, don't donate. But most people who say they can't donate really can. But for those of us who can't contribute, it is sad. Report
MUSICNUT
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Blood donations save lives.
One of my adult kids needed an organ transplant - and needed a lot of blood products in the months leading up to the surgery.
I gave my 115th donation this week.
I know what it's like to donate, and now a close family member has received!!!
If you can,please make an appointment to give blood and help save a life! Report
Over my life time, I've donated 114 units of 'blood. I also have witnessed the life saving miracle of family members receiving blood. Give if you can, you never know whose life it will help!!! Report
I usually donate when I can but I need to get back to do it at least once or twice a year. Report
For people who are saying they can't donate... many of your are right, but some of you may be wrong now. Recently the regulations were adjusted. Please try to donate and they'll evaluate you and let you know if you qualify or not. What would it hurt? Report
LILYOFVALEE
I used to donate every 8 weeks but I'm AB+ and not many people can use my blood. However, a few years ago, Heartland switched me to platelet/plasma donation, which makes my blood type much more useful. I can also donate every 4 weeks now. Report
I am a regular platelet donor. It is such an easy way to give back to the community. Additionally, I have needed an emergency pint or 2 on more than one occasion.

So as a donor I encourage everyone who is qualified, to donate. Currently I'm somewhere between 50 and 60 gallons (yes, gallons).

As a recipient, I thank those of you who are or have been donors. You do save lives. I am a living example. I would not be here today if it wasn't for blood donors. And I am grateful for every pint. Report
SYNCHRODAD
I can no longer give blood, too "contaminated." Last December, I had emergency surgery and required 3 units. Life saving surgery and life saving blood. I am so thankful to whomever thought of me, though they didn't know me. Report
My husband hated red cross...they charge armed forces guys for the blood and that is taken first out of they pay no exceptions. (this may have changed since the vietnam era LOL but he never changed his opinion. They wont take my blood even tho im o negative. I wish there were better alternatives. Report
I wish I could donate blood but it makes me so sick for 3 days. Report
What a great informative article. I gave blood for years but now I only have one vein they can find. It has scar tissue so I don't donate anymore. Report
LIN1263
My Iron is at the lowest level on blood test charts, so I would not qualify. It has been low for 2 years and recently got stronger Iron pills to slowly increase it. So, maybe in 12 months when I should be healthy. Last year I got my Hepatitus A and B shot. Last month I got tested for HIV and Hepatitus C, all negative. West nile virus I would not have because I do not travel outside of Canada or the U.S.A. Report
Wish that I could donate but not allowed by the Red Cross because I was over seas and they don't allow you to donate if you were over there during certain years and I and my family were Report


 

About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.