By Ali Khatau
We’ve all heard about initiatives, both local and international that attempt to mobilise citizens to donate blood.
This blood is then used in blood transfusions for people who are in urgent need blood due to severe anaemia or from blood loss due to accidents as well as in many other cases including surgery and burns.
The blood you donate will benefit the person or people being transfused with it but do you also know that donating blood also has various health benefits for the donor as well?
Regular blood donations can have major health benefits and can reduce the risk of developing certain diseases and complications.
In fact, people with certain health conditions are strongly advised to donate blood once or twice a year by doctors as a precaution to prevent those health conditions from reoccurring.
Recently I was involved in a discussion with a fellow doctor on how beneficial regular blood donations can be to organs such as the liver and the heart.
The initiative was organized in Tanga Region was organised by G1 Security Group and Lions Club.
It was pleasing to know that the local community in Tanga also recognizes the benefits of donating blood and as a result they turned up in big leading to the collection of 97 units of blood which can save 291 lives.
So how exactly does donating blood help you maintain your heart and liver health?
Intake of diets rich in iron may increase the iron levels in the body, and since only limited amounts can be absorbed by our bodies, excess iron is stored in organs like the heart and liver.
This, in turn, increases the risk of damage to these organs and you may develop liver failure, liver cirrhosis and cardiac abnormalities like irregular rhythms.
Regularly donating blood ensures iron levels are maintained at healthy amounts, thus, reducing the risk of certain diseases.
According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, researchers found that people between 43 and 61 years had fewer heart attacks and strokes when they donated blood every six months.
Reduces Cancer Risk
Donating blood regularly can also reduce your risk of developing cancer. By donating blood, the body’s iron stores are maintained at healthy levels and a reduction in the body’s iron level is linked with low cancer risk.
Regular blood donations eventually reduce weight of the donors and this is especially helpful for those struggling with their weight.
Donating blood will also reduce your chances of developing heart problems and other complications that may develop due to an unhealthy weight. It is estimated that each donation burns upto 650 calories, according to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Missouri, US.
Of course a potential blood donor must meet certain criteria to be eligible and not everyone can be considered fit enough to be a donor.
Firstly, you must be between the age ranges of 18 to 60 years old. Also according to the American Red Cross, you must have a Blood Pressure of below 180/100mm of Mercury but above 90/50mm of Mercury.
You must also be free from any disease especially those transmissible through blood. The American Red Cross also recommends waiting for at least 8 weeks between 2 donations. This waiting time will help replenish blood levels in your body. It is also advised you weigh atleast 50kg in order to be eligible to donate.
So the next time you come across a blood donation drive and have a hard time deciding if you want to donate or not, just keep in mind that it’s a Win-Win situation.
Not only will you be involved in saving lives, you will also be healthier and will cut your chances of developing certain diseases like heart conditions and cancer. Blood is the most valuable gift you can give to someone – the gift of Life!
The author is a medical student at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University.