Your Blood Donation Might Be a Gift to Yourself

Most of us think of donating blood as altruistic. It’s something we do to save someone else’s life whether they suffered a catastrophic accident or injury, are being treated for cancer or other serious illnesses or having surgery.

However, I recently read an interesting article that was written a few years ago and published on Health.com that I want to share with you about the benefits to you if you give blood.

But first, the folks from Inland Northwest Blood Center (INBC) will be in the classroom at Bonner General Health (520 N. Third Avenue) on Friday, February 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to collect your donations. They need at least 200 donors each and every day to fill the needs in their service area which encompasses roughly a 150-mile radius around Spokane which, of course, includes us.

Contact Robin Hanson at 208-265-1123 for an appointment or just walk in. It will take about 45 minutes total.

The article I found says that there are four unexpected benefits to the donor when they give blood. The first is that your blood may flow better.

“If blood has a high viscosity, or resistance to flow, it will flow like molasses,” says Phillip DeChristopher, M.D. Ph.D., director of the Loyola University Health System blood bank. “Repeated blood donations may help the blood flow in a way that’s less damaging to the lining of the blood vessels and could result in fewer arterial blockages.”

De Christopher said that this might explain why the American Journal of Epidemiology found that blood donors are 88 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. DeChristopher says that blood donors are not only less likely to have a heart attack, but strokes and cancer as well.

He also said that “blood donors seem to not be hospitalized so often and if they are, they have shorter lengths of stay.”

The second benefit according to this article and maybe the first benefit in my humble experience is that you’ll get a mini health check-up. Your blood pressure will be taken as will your temperature, pulse and hemoglobin levels.

“After your blood is collected, it’s sent off to a lab where it will undergo 13 different tests for infectious diseases, like HIV and West Nile virus. If anything comes back positive, you’ll be notified immediately,” the article says.

This article didn’t say it, but your cholesterol level is also checked. Read this testimonial that a woman named Cheryl wrote on INBC’s website:

“After donating blood, I received a letter from INBC stating that my total cholesterol was quite high and that I should think about following up with my doctor. I ignored the letter and then a few months later, after donating again, I received a second letter stating the same thing. I finally went to see my doctor, had my bloodwork done and came to find out that not only was my cholesterol sky high, my other labs were also very elevated.

“Had I not received those letters, I would not have gone in to check with my doctor. I thought I was totally healthy. In my doctor’s words, I was a “walking heart attack.” I have since changed my diet, my lifestyle, and am getting fit and my labs are now all within normal limits. Thank you, INBC!”

Health.com says that the third benefit is that your iron levels will stay balanced.

“The statistics appear to show that decreasing the amount of iron, in otherwise healthy people over the long run is beneficial to their blood vessels, and diseases related to abnormalities in blood vessels, such as heart attack and stroke,” DeChristopher said.

The fourth benefit pretty much goes back to what I said in the beginning. Giving blood makes you feel good. If you feel good, you’ll live longer. Yes, there are studies on that too.

So, what do you say? If you’re healthy on Friday – no cold or flu symptoms – are over 16 years old (under 18s need a form filled out that you can find on INBC’s website) and weigh over 110 pounds, head on over to BGH and pump a pint. It’ll do your body good!

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.