According to the Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood, that’s roughly 36,000 units of red blood cells per day needed in the U.S. alone. By donating blood you help patients suffering from sickle cell disease, accidents, burn victims, heart surgery, organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer. To put it into perspective, a single car accident victim can require up to 100 pints of blood. That’s a lot of blood. And since blood can’t be made or manufactured, many patients depend on blood donors to literally save their lives.

Blood donation to the recipient means recovery and survival. But what are the benefits of donating blood for the donor? Let’s look at the emotional and physical health benefits that result from donating blood:

  1. Improves your emotional well-being. By donating blood you are helping others and according to a report from the Mental Health Foundation, helping others reduces stress and negative feelings such as isolation, and instead, provides a sense of belonging.
  2. Reduces your risk of heart disease. A study in the Journal of Blood Medicine found that regular blood donation significantly lowered cholesterol which protects against cardiovascular disease. Regular blood donation may also lower stores of iron in the body which can also reduce heart attack risk since high body iron stores are believed to increase heart attack risk.
  3. You can reduce your risk of cancer. As with heart disease, some cancers are also linked to high iron levels, such as liver, colon, lung, esophagus and stomach cancers. In a study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a small decrease was found in the risk of certain cancers linked with high iron levels in people who regularly donated blood.
  4. It’s a free health check-up. It’s not the same as a full physical at your doctor’s office, but in order to qualify to give blood you are required to undergo some basic health screenings. Trained professionals will check your pulse, blood pressure, body temperature and hemoglobin levels. This free mini-physical can provide some excellent insight into your overall health and can even detect problems that might indicate an underlying medical condition or risk factor. In addition, “when you donate blood, your blood is then tested for many disease and conditions. If you test positive for any of these conditions, the blood center notifies you. This allows the donor to follow-up with their healthcare provider,” said Raymond Gulino, Administrative Director of Mather Hospital’s Laboratory. “These tests are free to the donor and performed as part of the blood centers surveillance to ensure there is no transmission of diseases from donor to patient,” Gulino said.
  5. You could live longer. According to a Health Psychology study, it was found that people who volunteered for selfless reasons had a significantly reduced risk of mortality than those who volunteered solely for their own self-interest.

While these health benefits may be a good reason to go donate blood, it’s important to remember that by doing so you are impacting people’s lives on a very real and immediate level. Remember who you’re really helping. The need for blood is always there and it’s important to have willing donors. If you are able, please consider donating blood at Mather Hospital’s winter blood drive on March 4, 2019. Do it for others, and do it for yourself.