Thousands of people require blood and blood components every day. There is no understating the importance of donating blood for those who need it. However, donating blood can help the donor, as well. Some of these benefits are direct, physical results of giving blood while others affect mental health.
While it cannot compare to a visit to the doctor, donating blood can provide some insight into the donor’s health. Before giving blood, a donor receives a mini-physical that involves checking blood pressure, pulse, body temperature, and hemoglobin, among other factors. Additionally, a testing facility will check the blood for any infectious diseases or other issues. If the facility finds a problem, it will contact the donor and let them know.
Regularly donating blood has some positive effects on health, as well. One study suggests that donating blood at least once a year could reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 88%. People with high iron stores in their bodies are more likely to have cardiac issues as the iron constricts the blood vessels. Donating blood lowers the amount of iron in the body, providing more room for the blood vessels to operate.
In addition to reducing the risk of heart attack, donating blood may also lower the chances of developing certain cancers. While this effect is not as pronounced in otherwise healthy people, individuals with certain conditions saw dramatic reductions. Studies found the most notable effects in those with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or hemochromatosis.
Iron overload in the body also severely damages the liver. Recent research has linked excess iron with conditions like hepatitis C, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and a variety of other liver conditions. Health experts warn that NAFLD has become dangerously widespread. Donating blood is one potential method of eliminating excess iron.
In 2015, researchers studied the effects of donating blood one to four times a year on 292 participants. Around half of the donors had high blood pressure. After donating, those with high blood pressure saw notable improvements. The more a person donated, the more significant the change. Health experts point out that donating blood is an easy way to receive proper blood pressure readings while also taking steps to improve it.
In 2007, researchers studied the data of over 1 million blood donors. They discovered that blood donors had an overall mortality rate that was 30% lower than the general population. This also included a 4% lower cancer incidence. A portion of this improvement stems from the process' direct effects on the body. Plus, repeat donors must follow certain lifestyles to continue donating, most of which improve overall health.
Along with the potential physical benefits, donating blood can have some effects on mental health. Altruistic behavior has measurable benefits, such as boosting self-esteem and perceived worth. Additionally, one study found that people are more likely to be happy if they volunteer, even when considering factors like socioeconomic status. Volunteering can even lower the risk of depression.
Beyond the personal bonuses, blood donation is an integral part of the medical field. They help save the lives of children and adults who have cancer, blood disorders, and traumatic injuries, among other issues. For example, a person with iron deficiency may need a transfusion to increase their iron levels. People unable to make platelets may need regular platelet transfusions to stay healthy. Statistics show that a single donation can help save the lives of up to three people.
A person can choose to donate whole blood or different blood components, each of which have varying shelf lives. For example, platelets are extremely short-lived and last for only five days. Red blood cells last for around six weeks or 42 days. Plasma can be frozen for up to a year, making it the most resilient.
Each component of blood requires a different type of storage. Red cells remain in refrigerators at roughly 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators that keep the fluid moving continuously so it doesn't clot. Plasma sits in a freezer. Hospitals typically keep some donation units on hand and major blood services can ship more at any time to wherever it is needed.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.