Strange Benefits of Giving Blood
Did you know that men who donate blood on a regular basis are healthier than men who do not? It’s true. Studies have shown that men who regularly donate blood have fewer visits to hospitals, have shorter stays when they do visit hospitals, and have longer, healthier lives. In today’s article we’re going to look at why giving blood is beneficial, and why you might consider doing it.
The most common benefit of donating blood is that it can reduce the chances of developing iron overload, which is a condition known as hemochromatosis.
Hemochromatosis is a serious condition that occurs when too much iron builds up in the body. The results can include liver damage, diabetes, arthritis, and heart damage.
Although we all need iron, like most things, we need it in the right amounts. Too little iron can cause anemia. But far more common, especially in men in the Western world, is to have too much iron. Because iron is easily oxidized (think about how easily iron rusts, for example), too much iron in the body produces oxidative stress. The result, as already mentioned, can be organ damage and serious complications.
Men are far more susceptible to iron excess than women. There are two reasons for this. One is that men naturally store more iron than do women. The other is that while menstruating women lose iron every month, men do not. So as men we have to be especially aware of how much iron we have in our bodies.
Excessive iron can build up either because of excessive iron intake or because of the body’s inability to remove iron fast enough. Excessive iron intake from natural food is rare. However, many people take multi supplements containing iron, and that can lead to iron excess. So too can eating too many foods that are fortified with iron.
The most common reason for iron overload, however, is because the body is unable to remove it fast enough. That is primarily hereditary, meaning that if your parents or grandparents had hemochromatosis, you are more likely to have it. Hemochromatosis can occur in all men, but men with European ancestry are much more likely to have the condition.
The primary treatment for those who have hemochromatosis is regular phlebotomies. However, fortunately, those who are predisposed to the condition can avoid developing excess iron simply by donating blood regularly. And researchers have found that the iron-reducing effects of phlebotomies may partially explain why those who donate blood regularly have healthier hearts.
Better Blood Flow
It’s important that your blood be able to coagulate. If it didn’t, you could bleed to death from a simple scrape. And that is one of the reasons why some blood-thinning drugs come with side effects such as stomach bleeding. But on the other hand, too much coagulation is also a problem.
Blood that is too thick is a common problem among men. And it turns out that blood donation helps. Giving blood improves the thickness of the blood so that it can flow better. The result is healthier blood vessels and a healthier heart. This may be another reason why those who donate blood regularly have healthier hearts.
To Donate Or Not To Donate
Donating blood offers benefits not only to you, but also to the recipients. And, interestingly, studies show that those who donate blood for the purpose of helping others end up being even healthier than those who donate blood only for the health benefits. So if you can find a reason to want to give blood to help others, you may be helping yourself even more.
But donating blood isn’t always possible. As mentioned earlier, blood banks can only accept blood from healthy people who are free from disease. Some people who are turned down for blood donation may still benefit from a phlebotomy. If you are one of those people, you may want to explore a therapeutic phlebotomy, which requires a prescription.
Although regular blood donation is beneficial for most men, that doesn’t mean it is appropriate for all men. Our individual needs differ. While some men may benefit from donating blood every 6 weeks, other men may benefit from donating just once per year.
Finally, although most men have a problem of too much iron, excessive blood donation can result in the opposite problem. More is not always better when it comes to blood donation. The iron tests done routinely at blood donation centers typically do not include testing for ferritin, which determines your iron stores. If you regularly donate blood, it is a good idea to have your ferritin levels tested regularly as well.
All men would be wise to get their ferritin levels checked. Since most men are at risk of developing high iron levels, regular blood donations are an effective solution. Not only can giving blood improve iron levels, it can also improve blood coagulation. And the altruistic value of donating blood turns out to also have health benefits for the donor.