Today I donated blood to the American Red Cross. I feel great for a number of reasons.
- The holiday season brings an expected shortage of blood. This is because less people donate due to weather cancellations, higher frequency of colds, and people not wanting to leave their home (hibernation).
- The frequency of natural disasters have been increasing. To name a few: Hurricane Michael (Mexico Beach, FL), wildfires on the west coast, mudslides, tornadoes, blizzards in unexpected areas, and flooding. Also, senseless acts of violence have devastated many locations in the U.S. These combined events require blood donations.
- It is kind of like exercise, for your bone marrow. Haven’t you always wanted to flex your bone marrow?? The slight decrease in blood volume, and thus blood oxygen, is noted by a checkpoint in the kidneys. Then, the kidneys make erythropoietin which is a protein that signals the bone marrow to create more red blood cells (RBC’s). I believe it is important to stimulate the body to do this process once in a while. It takes about 2 weeks to get back to their baseline red blood cell counts.
- On a side note, I encourage patients to manage weight with healthy lifestyle choices like proper nutrition and physical activity. However donating blood burns approximately 650 calories, over the weeks of regenerating RBC’s. This is not a weight loss recommendation, but an interesting point.
- A free mini-medical check-up: Hemoglobin level, blood pressure, pulse. Also if there are certain diseases in your blood, such as babiesosis (parasitic infection passed by ticks) or HIV, you will be alerted with a letter in the mail.
- Excess Iron is dangerous. A hereditary disease, hemochromatosis which effects 1/200 people leads to an inability to get rid of iron in the body. The only way to combat this disease is transfusion, donation, or blood letting; along with a few other naturopathic tricks. According to studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, blood donors are 33% less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and 88% less likely to suffer a heart attack. Iron is pro-oxidative, eg rust, and will create oxidized cholesterol which will damage the blood vessels, pre-disposing the vessels to disease. Iron-deficiency is also problematic, but you cannot donate blood if you have a hemoglobin of less than 13.
- An anti-cancer effect! The Miller-Keystone Blood Center found consistent blood donation associated with lower risks of cancers due to the reduction in oxidative stress. Another study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researched 1,200 people split into groups of two over the course of 4.5 years. One group donated blood twice a year, while the second group did not. The group of blood donors had lower iron levels, and a lower risk of cancer and mortality.
So if you cannot donate time or money or other goods this holiday season, consider donating blood – to help save a life, as well as improve your health!
Donating blood is contraindicated for people with blood diseases, immune deficiencies, anemia, pregnancy, current antibiotic use, and kidney disease