My last blog, Annual physical exams…are they really necessary?, prompted me to write this one. In that blog, I suggested that donating blood could be a good substitute for routine screening normally conducted in a doctor’s office for; weight, iron level, blood pressure, temperature, and pulse. Added to that list is that donated blood is tested for West Nile virus, Syphilis, Hep B & C and HIV among others. Donors are notified if their blood tests positive for any of the tests conducted.
In high school, I sponsored several blood drives. I was l looking for a volunteer opportunity and landed on blood drives because, at the time, my Grandfather was awaiting a heart transplant. Thankfully, he got one and two years later he is still with us. I spent a lot of time in the hospital around that time and became aware of the desperate need for blood, every day. The blood drives were my way of helping a little, but, I also learned quite a bit. That said, I never looked at donating blood in terms of benefits to the donor, other than learning the results of one’s screening tests. I researched the topic and discovered that donating whole blood can reduce the amount of iron in our systems, which may reduce risk associated with cardiovascular events. Such an event can cause damage to the heart muscle. This would certainly be a good reason to donate whole blood, but is it proven?
Null hypothesis: Donating whole blood does not effect levels of iron in your system nor reduce cardiovascular events.
Alternate Hypothesis: If you donate whole blood, you will reduce the amount of iron in your body, thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.
This article provides a good overview of several benefits of donating blood all resulting from reduced levels of iron in the body. It suggests that lower levels of iron reduces risks associated with liver and heart ailments, cancer and hemochromatosis, which is a genetic disorder caused by iron overload.
Source: Photo 1
I then found this retrospective cohort study of donor activity over a three-year period for two groups. The first group, consisting of 1508 subjects, donated only one unit of blood in that timeframe. The second group, also consisting of 1508 subjects, donated more than one unit of blood each year, over the 3-year period. The subjects were matched for gender and age. Medical records as well as a common questionnaire were utilized to determine medical developments for the subjects 10 years after the study period. 2104 subjects remained in the study for evaluation which concluded that the subjects who gave more frequently had fewer cardiovascular events, were less likely to be taking medication and weighed less than the subjects who donated blood less frequently.
A research article published by the British Medical Journal compared 40 years and older males, with no known heart ailments. A total of 3,855 subjects initially participated; 655 were whole blood donors and 3200 were non-donors. All the subjects had varying education levels, non-cardio ailments and levels of activity. At the final assessment, 2,966 participants remained in the study. Cardiovascular events were reported for 64 donors (only non-smokers were included) and 567 non-donors resulting in a 95% confidence level that whole blood donation may reduce iron in the blood thus reducing potential cardiovascular events. This study did suggest additional clinical trials as a follow through for confirmation.
While I believe more robust studies are needed to solidify evidence of reduce heart ailments because of donating whole blood, the evidence provided is certainly convincing enough for me to continue to donate and potentially change the frequency of my blood donations. Take a look at the BLOOD FACTS below. If these studies don’t convince you to donate, the facts listed below should be convincing enough for you to consider donating as well!
- Red Blood Cells have a shelf life of about 35 days.
- Each blood donation is tested for HIV, Hepatitis B & C, Syphilis, West Nile Virus and other infectious agents.
- Testing requires 24 hours.
- Every 5 seconds someone needs blood, a friend, a family member or maybe even you.
- Less than 5%of the population donates blood, yet 80% of the population needs blood.
- Nearly 4 millionAmericans would die each year without life-saving blood transfusions.
- An estimated 109,500 Americans will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma this year.
|A bone marrow recipient
needs up to 20 units of red blood cellsand 120 units of platelets.
|An automobile accident victim
needs up to 50 units of red blood cells.
|A sickle cell anemia patient
needs up to 14 units or red blood cellsper treatment.
|A cancer patient
needs up to 8 units of platelets per week.
|A heart surgery patient
needs up to 6 units of red blood cellsand 6 units of platelets.
|An organ transplant recipient
needs 30 units of platelets and 25 units of plasma.
Organic Facts: Health Benefits of Blood Donation
Study #1: Google Scholars: Wiley Online Library:
Google Scholars: BMJ – British Medical Journal
Community Blood Services: Blood Facts – DID YOU KNOW?