Blood donation is one of those voluntary activities where you win by losing. True enough, when you donate blood for transfusion, the advantages are not exclusive to the recipients alone. Blood donors also receive an array of perks, particularly aiding their physical and mental health.
Below you’ll find the many benefits of donating blood, from enhanced blood flow, reduced cancer risks, healthier iron levels, and many more.
Pro tip: To make the process a tad easier for you and the phlebotomist, make sure you’re already aware of your blood type. If you’re unsure, take a blood type test you can order online. In addition to an efficient blood donation, knowing your blood type comes with other values. Read about how a blood test can save your life.
- It Helps Improve Blood Flow
When you donate whole blood, you lose about 470 ml, or about 8% of your total blood volume. Of course, your body is bound to replace the lost blood within 24 to 48 hours, followed by the new red blood cells (RBC) produced within the next three months.
The new plasma and blood cells are generally healthier, considering they are fresh and have not been worn out. As a result, they have less viscosity and aren’t as resistant to blood flow, improving the movement of the plasma in the bloodstream.
With the blood flow significantly improved with a regular donation, blood donors often have a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. Plus, those with low RBC levels have a higher chance of producing more when the cells are replenished.
Aside from improved blood flow, a study in the Journal of Blood Medicine shows those who have donated blood multiple times tend to have lower total cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) than those who don’t.
- It Normalizes Your Blood Iron Levels
One of the crucial benefits of donating blood is keeping your iron at normal levels. Red blood cells contain iron to fulfill their function of transporting oxygen and other substances.
While most people understand that low iron absorption can cause iron-deficiency anemia, leading to other health complications, too much iron also comes with damage of its own.
Hemochromatosis, or iron overload, a disorder wherein excessive iron is stored in the body, can trigger heart problems, diabetes, and liver disease. This condition is caused by a faulty gene (HFE mutation), inherited from the parents.
People with hemochromatosis often undergo blood donation to help remove the extra iron. It’s widely deemed safe for the donor and recipient, provided the former passes the eligibility requirements.
- It Lowers Your Risk for Cancer
As blood donors maintain a healthy level of stored iron, they also benefit from reducing their risk of cancerous tumor development.
According to research, cancer cells are more dependent on iron than normal cells. Although further studies are needed to solidify this notion, the evidence suggests that regular blood donation, which drives the normalization of iron levels, aid in preventing cancer.
Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Oncology shows the link between blood donation and tumor risks. Data indicates that blood donors in the study have a lower risk for cancers of the lungs, liver, esophagus, prostate, and lymph system (lymphoma) compared to non blood donors.
- It Can Influence Weight Management
Several organizations claim that one benefit of donating blood is caloric management. Although not enough to drive weight loss, the burned calories can drive minor improvements in your metabolism.
However, the most significant advantage of blood donation to your weight management is the free screening. As you’re weighed in to check if you hit the prescribed weight of 110 Lbs, healthcare providers can direct you to medical interventions if you appear to be under or overweight.
Pro tip: Believing that regular blood donation can result in significant weight loss is one of the myths you should be aware of when managing your weight. Learn more about other weight loss mistakes to avoid so you can ensure success in your goals.
- It Promotes Healthy Liver
The removal of excess iron from donating blood also benefits the liver. When oxidized iron accumulates in the liver, it hinders its function of filtering out toxins.
In addition, iron has a direct correlation with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which has been found to increase in concentration as the disorder progresses. The same case has been noted among several patients with cirrhosis.
Other Incredible Benefits of Donating Blood
On top of the health benefits of donating blood are other perks advantageous to your social and mental states. As one pint of blood is said to save up to three lives, those well-informed of the end-to-end impact and value of blood donation become more inclined to be part of the drive.
That said, you can expect these additional benefits as soon as you start donating blood.
You get a free health screening
To assess your qualification as a blood donor, healthcare providers perform an initial screening to rule out any transmissible disease. This is on top of getting your vitals, such as your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature.
The screening often starts as a questionnaire to evaluate if you have potential exposure to specific infections like HIV or hepatitis virus. Then, the collected blood also undergoes testing to ensure it’s healthy and viable for transfusion. You will also be notified if medical technologists find any disease-causing microbe or substance.
Additionally, if the assessing officer suspects symptoms of a disease that prevents your eligibility for blood donation. In that case, you will be advised to see a doctor and take the proper lab test for diagnosis.
You get to help other people in need
The social value of blood donation has always been hailed. In fact, it’s one of the most recommended activities for people who wish to have more impact in their local community. In the US alone, someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds.
By donating blood, you can save someone else’s life. However, the idea of taking part in extending another person’s time on earth also has a positive effect on your mindset. It makes you more empathetic to others and selfless – two qualities that need to be spread out to others.
You become a part of a social community
Organizations spearheading blood donation drives often keep in touch with their donors. For one, they help them understand the cause deeper and be part of more extensive advocacy. This access to a community allows you to expand your help.
Plus, when you’re on the other side of the stick, you can also readily get help, especially if you need a blood transfusion. It’s a surefire win-win case.
You improve your mental health
Blood donation is a rewarding activity, not just because you’ve proven your bravery against needles or blood loss. It’s an actual achievement, and your brain agrees completely.
Volunteering and donation trigger your reward system. In doing so, dopamine of the “feel good” neurotransmitter is released, which puts you in a better mood. And while other recreational activities can also trigger dopamine, blood donation allows for a more regulated release (not too much or too little). As a result, it improves and stabilizes your mental health.
Pro tip: Learn more about how else you can fix low dopamine naturally. Following the five practical steps will help you stabilize your mood and drive away depressive symptoms.
What To Consider Before Donating Blood
Not everyone can donate blood, but most people can be provided that they are in good health. Also, requirements may vary depending on the type of blood donation, specifically in terms of age. Check out what would make you the perfect blood donor.
- At least 17 years old (aged 16 can also donate with guardian or parent consent, but this depends on state law and donation type)
- Weight should be at a minimum of 110 Lbs or 50 kg
- Should not be pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have not undergone tattooing or piercing within the last three to six months
Physical health and medical history
- Optimal health is required before donating blood
- Must not have indications of inflammation and infection such as fever and sores during donation
- Have never tested positive for HIV infection
- No diagnosis or symptoms of chronic health conditions like cancer, hepatitis, malaria, blood disorders, etc.
- Individuals taking antibiotics, particularly against potent bacteria or viruses, are often deferred from donating blood
- Should not be taking blood thinners (Heparin, Warfelon, etc.) and other medical drugs given for disorders and diseases tagged for blood donation deferral
- Those who are exposed to countries with high cases of malaria, dengue, and other mosquito-borne infections are advised to donate after complete health clearance.
- Individuals engaging in “at risk” sexual activity are also encouraged to take thorough screening first, such as taking an STD panel with a healthcare consultation.
- People with a recent history of illicit drug use or who are undergoing rehabilitation should not be donating blood.
Red Cross outlines the eligibility criteria to guide you in deciding and reaping the benefits of blood donations. However, for additional information, check with your doctor first and the local blood bank to ensure you fit the bill before preparing for extraction.
Side Effects of Donating Blood
As the process of blood donation includes inserting the needle and drawing out blood passing through the tubes and then the bag, it’s possible to experience some side effects. However, these are typically temporary and do not cause a serious alarm.
Some of the side effects associated with blood donation include:
- Bruising and raised bump
- Dizziness and nausea
- Numbness and tingling
- Continuous bleeding
Keep in mind that if these conditions persist for a long time after the donation, you should immediately see a doctor. However, these are rare and primarily isolated cases that involve errors during pre-screening.
To best avoid discomfort during and after blood donation, make sure to follow the preparation tips, such as having enough sleep and eating a meal at least 30 minutes before the procedure. Also, go through with the designated post-screening section of the blood bank facility.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to donate blood?
Donating blood is safe, following a sterile procedure administered by professionally trained individuals. When you donate blood, you’ll see that all the needles are disinfected and discarded after a single use.
Likewise, the medical team conducts thorough screening to ensure you’re fit for blood extraction. For example, if you’re sleep deprived, have been drinking alcohol in the last 24 hours, or with health conditions like cancer or heart disease, you’ll most likely get declined for blood donation.
How often can I give blood?
You can donate whole blood as frequently as every after 56 days or about six times a year. But there are also other types of blood donation that you can get into, which allows you to donate more often than just that of the whole blood. Plate donation, for example, allows weekly donation, while you can have plasma extracted every 28 days.
However, keep in mind that these are conditional – meaning you should qualify based on health and lifestyle standards every time you make a blood donation.
Does giving blood detox your body?
Donating blood comes with detoxifying benefits. A regular donation of whole blood and plasma allows for the significant reduction of PFAS levels in the body.
PFASs stand for poly-fluoroalkyl substances. They are used for coating various household items, making them more resistant to heat, grease, oil, or stain. Because of this, humans have low exposure to PFAS, which generally does not pose a threat. However, high levels of PFAS in the body can cause damage to the immune system, thyroid function, and liver health.
The Bottom Line
The social and health benefits of donating blood is unparalleled as it is significant. If you’re eligible for blood donation, consider it an annual goal. Not only will you be able to help others in need, but you will also improve your health and have the advantage of belonging to a solid community of like-minded individuals. For more information, get in touch with your local blood bank or keep track of blood donation drives in your area.