Did you know that every time you donate blood, you could be helping to save as many as three lives? Blood Centers of the Pacific states about four million people receive a blood transfusion every year. Although 38% of the population is able to donate blood, only about 10% do so annually. This number is surprising given the benefits that both donors and donation centers receive when you give blood.
How Donors Benefit
Donating blood for the first time may seem like a daunting task, but most individuals feel that donating blood is worthwhile. While you may not think of giving blood as a way to protect your health, it turns out that you do reap some solid benefits from donating blood:
- Free health screening: Every time you give blood, a medical technician, doctor or nurse will check your blood pressure and give you a free health screening.
- Reduced risk of heart disease: Some doctors and scientists believe that giving blood may lower the risk of heart disease by lowering your iron levels.
- Potential health benefits for the obese: Preliminary studies done in Germany show that donating blood may potentially help obese patients with metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and overall heart health.
Acts of altruism make you feel good. Giving feels great, especially when you understand that one hour of your time and one pint of blood can save so many people. In addition, what goes around comes around. If you want blood to be available to you or your loved ones when it's needed, do your part to make sure it's available for others as well.
How Donations Help Blood Banks
Donation centers are in constant need of fresh supplies of blood. The simple fact is, blood donations save lives. There are many reasons why your donation is needed.
One Pint Can Help Seven People
Donated blood can be separated into several components: red blood cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate. When it's used in this way, a donated pint of blood can help save up to seven people. If the blood is kept as a whole unit (as opposed to being separated into components), it will help save up to three lives.
Blood Can't Be Created Artificially
There's no substitute for human blood, although researchers have been trying for decades to create an artificial substitute. Since medical science has not been able to create a synthetic alternative for blood, doctors must have access to blood for patients who need transfusions. This is why donations of all types of blood are so critically important.
Donations Ensure Supply Diversity
Human blood contains different proteins, and can be classified into four major blood groups: A, B, AB, and O. Type O is the most common, and thus is in the highest demand. Blood banks frequently run short of Type O during the summer and holiday months when car accidents tend to be on the rise. A patient can only receive a blood transfusion of a like type, so it's important that donation centers are stocked with all four types.
Blood is Needed Every Two Seconds
Medical emergencies, illnesses and injuries take place constantly, and according to the American Red Cross, someone in America needs blood every two seconds. Your donation can help ensure that ill and injured individuals receive the medical attention they need in a timely manner. It's important to note that it's not just trauma patients that need blood. Blood donations benefit premature babies, cancer patients, individuals with sickle cell anemia, individuals undergoing surgery and accident victims.
Blood is a perishable resource. Just because a successful blood drive took place in your community a few weeks ago, doesn't mean your local blood bank has sufficient supplies today. Blood cannot be stored for any extended length of time - it's either used, or it's disposed of. Regularly donating blood helps ensure supplies are available on an ongoing basis. The various components of blood can be stored for the following periods of time:
- Red blood cells can be stored for 42 days
- Platelets can be stored for five days
- Frozen plasma can be stored for a year
Making a Donation
The process for donating blood is safe and easy. The total time you'll spend in the blood center is approximately an hour, but the blood donation itself only takes about 10 minutes. Simply fill out a questionnaire, undergo a quick physical, provide your donation, and take a few minutes to relax and eat snacks. Your body replaces the lost fluid within hours, while your red blood cells and iron take four and eight weeks to bounce back, respectively.
If you decide to make a blood donation, you can choose to participate at a local blood drive, or you can opt to donate at a local blood center. You can prepare for your donation by eating iron-rich foods the day before and drinking plenty of water the day of your donation.