Donate Blood — The Life You Save May Be Your Own

| 4/13/2012 4:40:39 PM

Tags: iron, anemia, blood donation, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, chronic fatigue, depression, iron disorders, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, Metabolic Syndrome, , Ellen Sandbeck,

A couple of weeks ago I suddenly realized that my husband Walt hadn’t donated blood in a while, so when he got home, I talked him into it. Later that very evening, by sheer coincidence (really, I had nothing to do with it!) the Blood Bank called and wanted him to donate, so he made an appointment. Great minds think alike, I guess. 

Long ago, before we had kids, Walt and I used to donate blood together, but the last time I went in to donate, I tested borderline anemic, and after that, childbirth, motherhood, and various things no one really wants to know about, have kept me perpetually low on blood. So no more donating for me. This is not unusual: premenopausal women are quite commonly a bit low on blood. 

The situation is quite different for healthy adult males and postmenopausal women, however. Many healthy adults who are not losing blood regularly, in one way or another, end up with blood that is actually too iron-rich, and this can cause quite serious health problems. (This overabundance of richness in the blood is probably not a normal state for any humans: in hunting societies, men were very likely to be injured fairly regularly, thus lowering their blood iron levels. This is how our species evolved, and the way our bodies are meant to work.) This is why I try to remind Walt to donate blood on a regular basis — I’d much rather he lost blood in a planned and controlled fashion at the blood bank rather than by going out and having periodically spaced accidents. 

So, if you are a healthy adult male, or a healthy post-menopausal woman, and you do not regularly participate in a blood-letting sport such as boxing or bicycling in city traffic, here are some of the reasons that it might be a good idea for you to donate blood: 

Women lose blood and lower their blood iron levels every time they menstruate, while men in their twenties begin storing iron in their body tissues. According to Victor Herbert, M.D., a hematologist at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, the average adult male stores about 1,000 milligrams of iron in his body, while the average premenopausal woman’s body stores only 300 milligrams of iron. Men’s risk of heart attack begins rising while they are in their twenties, while the average woman’s risk of heart attack only rises after she goes through menopause. 

A 1998 Finnish study found that men who donated blood at least once a year had an 88% lower risk of heart attacks than nondonors. 

4/25/2012 6:35:32 PM

Thank you for a n accurate and necessary article. I worked in and supervised clinical laboratories for 44 years, and our one big fear was to not have the blood needed to save a life. To all males reading this she is 100% correct that we suffer from too much iron. Give one time and you will most likely donate often. Fear is the biggest deterrent to blood donations. The rumors the you can get AIDS/HIV by donating are all lies. Donate and save several lives with one donation.

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