Surprising Health Benefits Of Donating Blood

Vials of blood in a silver holder
Donating blood even once can help save the lives of three people — whether they’re newborns needing heart surgery, adults badly injured in car crashes, or people of any age suffering from cancer.

You may be surprised to learn that donating blood is not only lifesaving, but that it has many health benefits for the donor as well.

What are the benefits of blood donation?

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Aside from the results of the mini-physical, which can alert you to some health issues you may be having, such as high blood pressure, your blood will also be screened for other illnesses before it is cleared to be donated. These screenings include tests for Hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, Syphilis, HTLV, and West Nile Virus. If any of these diseases is detected, the blood is not used for donation and the donor is notified.

Iron Control

Many people are surprised to find that not only is donating blood safe, but it could actually improve their health by lowering the risk of certain types of disease. With the mostly animal based diet that’s the norm in this country; the majority of people are getting more iron than they need, with the exception of pre-menopausal women who lose iron through their monthly menstrual flow.

Getting enough iron is important, but too much iron in the body can be a problem too. Iron has a pro-oxidant effect, meaning high levels cause free radical damage that increases the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Some studies show that high levels of iron elevate the risk of heart attack, although a more recent study failed to confirm this. Nevertheless, too much iron in the body isn’t healthy.

So how does this relate to donating blood? Each time blood is donated, a small amount of iron is removed from the body which helps to keep iron levels in check. Of course, some people have iron levels that are too low already and need to hang on to what they have. This may be true of women who have heavy menstrual periods or vegetarians who get little iron in their diet. This is one of the reasons a blood sample is taken before a person is allowed to donate blood, to make sure there’s no evidence of an iron deficiency anemia.

Donating Blood May Benefit The Obese

A preliminary study in Germany recently found that some obese people may improve their health by giving blood. In the study, obese people with metabolic syndrome who had blood drawn experienced a reduction in blood pressure, along with other changes that linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, the researchers said.

Helps Fight Cardiovascular Problems

Several studies published in the medical literature point out to a lower risk of cardiovascular events among frequent, long-term whole blood donors. The reduction in risk seems significant: an 88% lower risk for heart attacks and a 33% reduction in overall incidence of cardiovascular events (including heart attacks, stroke and peripheral vascular disease) when frequent blood donors were compared to non-donors. The effect was more pronounced for males and postmenopausal females, and was independent of smoking status.