I’m fortunate that I’m eligible to donate blood. Only about 38% of Americans qualify. If you’ve ever had viral hepatitis, most types of cancer, HIV, multiple and several other conditions you are not eligible. Still this leaves the opportunity for many of us. I’m a big believer in donating blood, not just because it is such an easy and important charitable service, but because I believe it’s good for me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t use leaches at the office, and although some of my patients may think I have so much of their blood drawn that I’m using bloodletting as a therapeutic modality, there really are some potential health benefits to donating blood.
Foremost is that in our western style diets most of us eat and absorb more iron than we need. Iron excess may be associated with higher oxidation of free radicals, and the potential for higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that donating blood is a sure fire way to prevent these problems, or that most cases of heart disease, diabetes or cancer are related to iron excess. I am saying that there is some evidence that iron excess is may increase the risk of these problems.
I just got my 3 Gallon award recently from our regional blood bank. I’ve lived here for 23 years, and in theory could have donated blood just over 6 times a year, so I could have donated over 17 gallons. I’m far from the perfect donor. Still, I do believe that being a blood donor has potential health benefits for the donor.
The benefits for the recipients of the donated blood are innumerable and not the purpose of this post. Still I get to spend a few minutes lying on a couch, in an air conditioned room, knowing I’m doing something healthy for myself at the same time I’m helping others. Is there an easier decision for me than to take the few minutes every couple of months to drop by the blood bank and lie back, relax, and know I’m doing the right thing? Cookies and juice top off what is always a feel-good half hour or so.
Make the time to drop by your blood bank this week, and get in the habit of doing so regularly.