Giving blood is as good for YOUR health as it is for the receiver

  • Image: Staff Sgt. Stephanie Rubi, U.S. Air Force [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
    Image: Staff Sgt. Stephanie Rubi, U.S. Air Force [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
    Donating blood can help reduce the risk of heart attacks and cancer
  • It reduces iron levels which can thicken blood and increase free-radical damage
  • You burn 650 calories with every pint donated

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, with a total of 44,000 blood donations needed every day, reports the American Red Cross. One whole blood donation, which takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour, can come to the rescue of as many as three patients.

But when you roll up your sleeves to help your neighbor, you could be helping yourself. It is believed that benefits arise when you lower your iron levels. Iron affects how thick and sticky the texture of the blood is.  High iron levels causes the blood to be thicker. This is sometimes known as “Stale Blood.”

Raised iron levels also accelerate the oxidisation process of cholesterol. This can affect blood consistency and create increased friction as it travels through blood vessels. This wear and tear to the lining of arteries can lead to cardiovascular disease.

Blood viscosity is known to be a unifying factor for the risk of cardiovascular disease, says the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. How thick and sticky your blood is and how much friction your blood creates through the blood vessels can determine how much damage is done to the cells lining your arteries. You can reduce your blood viscosity by donating blood on a regular basis, which eliminates the iron that may possibly oxidize in your blood. An increase in oxidative stress can be damaging to your cardiovascular system.

Blood donation reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes, too. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers found that participants ages 43 to 61 had fewer heart attacks and strokes when they donated blood every six months. In a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found in a sample size of 2,682 men in Finland, those who donated blood a minimum of once a year had an 88 percent lower risk of heart attacks than those who did not donate.

The research suggests that the removal of oxidative iron from the body through blood donations means less iron oxidation and reduced cardiovascular diseases.