The health benefits of blood donation

July 14, 2011

From Bangkok Post
There is no substitute for human blood. Only blood from one person can save another. And did you know that donating blood not only benefits the recipient but may also improve the health of the donor? So if you donate blood on a regular basis, you’ll get more than just that great feeling of saving a life – you are also saving your own.
About 70% of your body’s iron is found in the red blood cells of your blood called haemoglobin. Most people have excess iron in their blood, which may be more harmful than beneficial, and giving blood removes some of the excess iron accumulated in the body.
Amounts of iron beyond a certain quantity can promote formation of free radicals in the body which, studies have shown, could cause cellular changes which can disrupt normal cell function and increase the risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. This is more likely to be a problem for men and post-menopausal women since women of child bearing age shed excess iron through regular menstrual cycles. In fact, earlier studies have shown that men who donate blood on a regular basis have a lower risk of heart disease.
And there’s no need to worry about loosing too much iron from giving blood because your iron levels are tested each time before donating blood, either by checking your haemoglobin or concentration of red blood cells.
Donating blood will help your body function more efficiently by replenishing your blood supply regularly. Usually, your body replaces the blood volume within 48 hours of donation, and all the red blood cells you lose are completely replaced within four to eight weeks. This process of replenishment can help refresh your system and keep your body healthy, as well as work more efficiently and productively.
You will receive a mini health check each time you go to donate blood – your weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. So this is also a great way to check your basic vitals and make sure that everything is in good working order. In addition, your blood will be tested for some important infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV. And since individuals can donate blood as frequently as every two months, this means they will receive six health check-ups a year, free of charge.
The most obvious benefit of donating blood is the wonderful feeling you get from giving something crucial to another person who really needs it. The instant gratification you get will make you feel good inside and help relieve stress.
Blood donation also burns extra calories and can help reduce cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that individuals who regularly donate blood are at a decreased risk of developing heart disease and cancers, including liver, lung, colon, stomach, and throat cancer.
It only takes an hour out of your busy schedule to donate blood. An hour spent relaxing in a chair every two months is all it takes to benefit both your health and the health of a recipient.


Writer Assoc Prof Dittakarn Boriboonhirunsarn is a member of the Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital

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