This post is also available in: English
Donating blood is usually perceived as something donors do to help other people. And that’s good—donating blood does help countless people the world over every day. Blood donations help people with chronic diseases, victims of severe trauma, and people in many vulnerable positions.
But does donating blood also help donor? Some say yes. This may seem counterintuitive—less blood should make you weaker, right? However, many medical professionals have proposed a few surprising benefits for donors. Other medics are quick to say “not so fast.” Here’s some of what the debate is about.
Free Medical Care and Advice
When you donate blood, the medical professionals in charge of the operation don’t just take your word for it when you tell them you’re healthy. Nurses and technicians screen you and your blood, they ask you a series of questions that will remind you how to care for your blood, and they discuss general concepts of blood care. You’ll get some contact with trained blood experts. It isn’t like you’re getting a full-on physical check up or anything, but even a small amount of contact with medical experts will give you some small medical benefits.
On the other hand, some question how much good a brief questionnaire and few quick pricks will do donors. Most blood givers, or course, already know the answers to the questions they get. As a result, many medical professionals feel that the “free medical care” aspect of donation is overstated.
Reduction in Heart Disease?
Many articles will tell you that research supports the hypothesis that giving blood helps your heart. Proponents point to a 1998 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology which hypothesised that frequent blood loss would rid the body of iron build up and lead to cardiac ease. This hypothesis is interesting—if proven, it would justify the ages-old practice of bloodletting in certain situations—and many medics (and journalists) cited the study as potentially leading toward blood donor benefits.
Unfortunately, follow up research—which took the 1998 study into account—does not support the argument that regular blood loss decreases the risk of heart disease. The follow up research found no connection between iron build up and cardiac problems—at least among American men who didn’t have a history of heart disease or diabetes. In any case, blood donations aren’t going to hurt donors, so you giving blood regularly is still a great idea. And blood banks can always use the extra help.
This one benefit, at least, is not controversial. Giving blood is good for your mental health. When you give your blood to those in need, you’re offering up an essential part of your life force to help other people. Helping people provides profound emotional benefits to the person who helps. One donation can end up helping three or four different people.
And if your blood type is rare, your donations are that much more precious. People who have rare strains of blood can be left helpless as doctors attempt to find the proper match. When you offer up a dose of hard-to-find blood, you’re working to support a hard-to-save life.