Sunday, 7 July 2013

Why Giving Blood is Beneficial to the Donor

Giving blood is beneficial for the donor as well as the recipient. Studies carried out in the UK,USA and Finland on tens of thousands of people have demonstrated there are many benefits accruing to the donor from giving blood which are not normally understood by the general public.  The main benefits for the donor are: a reduced risk of a stroke or heart attack; a lesser chance of getting cancer; and a loss of weight resulting from the blood donation itself.

When you give blood, the body replaces the amount donated within two days but it takes up to 56 days to replace all the red blood cells. Forcing the body to create new blood as a consequence of a donation, means the new replacement blood introduced is more fluid thereby having a thinning effect on all the blood in the body. If your blood before the donation was thick or sticky, putting you at risk of a stroke or heart attack because this type of blood puts pressure on the heart to pump it to all the vital areas of the body, the thinner blood resulting from your donation is therefore beneficial to the body.

If you suspect that you are at risk of a stroke or heart attack, one constructive thing you can do is give blood regularly. Because of the 56 days it takes to replace the red blood cells, most national health services will forbid you from making a further blood donation until your body has fully recovered from the last one. However, you could schedule your donations at 3 monthly ( ninety days) intervals quite easily and thereby reap the compounded benefits of forcing the body to keep the blood more fluid and less viscous.   
Giving blood also reduces the amount of iron in the blood. The latter has a bearing on the susceptibility to getting cancer. One study in Finland involving 3,000 people found a significant decrease in the number of people getting cancer who gave blood regularly (at least once every six months) compared to those who didn’t contribute at all. The National Cancer Institute in the UK in its Journal also links increased iron levels in the body with an increased risk of developing cancer as a consequence of free radical damage.

Another side effect of giving blood is that the donor loses weight as a consequence of this action. The University Of California in San Diego estimate that for every pint of blood donated 650 calories are burned as a result of the body’s efforts to replenish itself. This equates roughly to a pound (2.2 Kilograms) loss of weight per each pint of blood donated. If you donate regularly, the loss of weight over time can be quite significant.

Other benefits include donors in the USA getting a free blood test worth about $300 when contributing blood. Blood banks in that country test the blood for infectious diseases before using it, and if anything significant is found, they will let the donor know and the blood will not be used.

The NHS (National Health Service) in the UK advises donors to contribute blood for altruistic reasons rather than for donor benefits. I do not entirely agree with this as the satisfaction a person gets from helping others, in certain cases, can itself be a donor benefit. I don’t see any valid reasons why donor benefits shouldn’t be highlighted.