We’re all aware of how blood donation helps to save lives, right? How your blood can be transfused into someone else with the same blood type after a surgical procedure, a car accident or to cleanse their existing blood supply. But what’s in it for you, besides feeling good because you’ve done your duty as a member of your community? Surprisingly, there are direct health benefits for you too!
Donating Blood Benefit #1: Shedding Iron
Most healthy adults have an iron content of around 5 grams. This is found mostly in your red blood cells as well as in your bone marrow. Each unit of blood you donate takes with it around 0.25 grams, which helps to regulate the iron content of your system and is replaced from your food after donation. This is beneficial in the long term, because too much iron can speed up the development of atherosclerosis or the hardening of your arteries.
Once a woman goes through menopause the iron content in her blood multiplies, so this regulation becomes even more important. If you are one of the 10% of pre-menopausal women who suffers from anemia or a shortage of iron, however, you should resolve this before donating your blood.
Donating Blood Benefit #2: Better Flow
You’ve heard about drugs that thin your blood, such as Aspirin? That makes the case that thicker blood has disadvantages, and even in a healthy adult the blood can have a high level of viscosity. This means it has a stronger resistance to flow, which is reduced by regular blood donation. Research from the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that blood donors are 88% less likely to have heart attacks, which could be a result of fewer blockages, although this hasn’t yet been proved conclusively.
Donating Blood Benefit #3: Mini Check-Up
Every time you donate blood, you’ll get a quick check-up to ensure that your temperature, pulse, heart rate, blood pressure and hemoglobin levels are looking good. This saves you making a medical appointment to check these things while keeping you on top of your overall state of health.
After collection, your blood is also screened for a range of infectious diseases including HIV and West Nile Virus. While these tests remain negative, you’ll know you haven’t unknowingly been exposed to anything and can enjoy peace of mind.
Donating Blood Benefit #4: Psychological Benefit
The psychological advantages of donating blood do more than just making you feel good. Research shows that helping others can reduce your risk of mortality for four years longer that people who don’t do so.
And if helping others is what drives you, remember this: each time you donate blood, you could be saving up to three human lives, because blood is divided into:
- Platelets, which treat patients with various cancers and blood diseases such as leukemia
- Plasma, which doctors use to help shock and burn victims
- Red blood cells, which are used to treat surgery patients and trauma victims
In fact, you can choose which type of blood you want to donate, based on the needs of the blood service. Or you can simply donate regularly, depending on your preference.
Make it a point to go and donate blood on a regular basis. Here’s where you can donate during March:
Gulf Coast Regional Blood’s Sugar Land donor center on Sweetwater Boulevard has five rooms for screening donors and 12 beds for collection. You can make an appointment at the center, which offers technology to facilitate automated blood collection so you can maximize the benefit of the blood you donate. It also has a play area for children, where you can keep the kids occupied with toys, movies and video games while you’re donating. There are also mobile blood drives happening on March 1st and 5th.
This donor center on Grand Parkway operates in much the same way as the Sweetwater Boulevard center, although it has only eight collection beds. Mobile drives in the area take place on:
- March 1 at Living Word Lutheran Church and St. Peter’s United Methodist Church
- March 3 at CenterPoint Energy
- March 4 at Pima Medical Institute
The Westchase donor center on Westheimer Road is open Monday through Saturday and has 10 collection beds. For details of mobile blood drives in March 2015, keep an eye on the Gulf Coast Blood Center’s website.
Most centers offer therapeutic phlebotomy too, or blood drawn for your own treatment. You’ll need a request form from your doctor to be sent through 72 hours prior to your first collection appointment.
Do your part for others by donating blood regularly and you’ll realize the benefits to your own healthy and life too.