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Published on September 21, 2015

4 really selfish reasons you should donate blood

4 really selfish reasons you should donate blood

It started when a bloodmobile came to Barnstable High School. I donated that day and 92 times since, meaning I’ve donated many gallons, one pint at a time.

I’ve always given because I thought that it was an easy, nearly painless way to perform an act of community service. But after the last time I gave, I had a selfish thought. What’s in it for me?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

“The most important part of giving blood is, of course, helping to save other people’s lives, but there are health benefits for the donor, too,” said Constance Patten, supervisor of donor transfusion services at the Cape Cod Healthcare Blood Center.

1. Giving blood stimulates the production of new red blood cells. Think of it as giving your own blood supply a little tune-up. It only takes about 24 hours for your body to replace the plasma from your donation. In four to six weeks, the red cells you donated will be completely replaced.

While you should avoid strenuous exercise for the rest of the day you donate, your body will operate at normal capacity while your blood cells are being replenished.

2. Donating blood can improve your cardiovascular health. Elevated levels of iron in the blood puts men at increased risk of heart disease. Donating blood takes iron out of your system. (It’s gradually replenished by the foods you eat.)

Men who donated blood at least once a year had an 88 percent lower risk of heart attacks than men who were not donors, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

3. Giving blood burns calories. “That’s a fun fact we always tell people,” said Patten. Donors burn about 650 calories during a one-pint donation.

4. Getting a pre-donation screening gives donors a health update. As part of the donation process, you’ll have your pulse and blood pressure checked and your iron level tested. This is no replacement for an annual exam by your physician, but it could let you know of a change in your health.

“One man came in to donate and his blood iron was down,” said Patten. “He went to his doctor who found that he was in the early stages of colon cancer. He was treated and now he’s fine.”

Those are all great reasons, but don’t get too focused on what blood donations can do for you.

“The best reason to donate is for altruistic reasons,” said Patten. “Almost everybody who donates blood feels good about it. All the blood donated at the blood center and through our blood drives stays on the Cape and helps your friends and neighbors.

“We supply Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth hospitals,” she said. “It’s used in surgeries, the maternity, the emergency room and elsewhere. When local people donate blood, we don’t have to get it from an outside source.”

The CCH Blood Center’s need for donors is ongoing. CCH hospitals perform more than 7,500 transfusions per year during elective and emergency surgery, to aid people after traumatic injuries and to help patients with anemia and bleeding disorders.

Fast facts about blood

  • About one in seven people entering a hospital needs blood.
  • Red blood cells have a limited shelf life—just 42 days—so they must be constantly replenished.
  • One pint of blood can save up to two lives
  • There is no substitute for human blood.

Check the Blood Center’s website for a schedule of blood drive events.

And keep an eye out for Cape Cod Healthcare’s new blood mobile, now making the rounds around Cape Cod.