It is a little known fact that donating blood is not only good for those needing blood but also for those who donate.
According to Art of Manliness, giving blood reduces hardening of the arteries and heart attack risk. A study of nearly 3,000 middle-aged men found that those who regularly donated blood had 88% less risk of heart attack. Scientists have a few theories as to why this is. First, there’s the iron thing. Several studies have shown a connection between high iron levels and increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. One study found that high iron levels immediately constrict blood vessels and reduce blood flow in your circulatory system. When you have reduced blood flow in your arteries, they begin to harden. What’s more, high iron levels in the blood can oxidize cholesterol, and the product of this oxidation deposits itself on the walls of your arteries causing build up which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Besides reducing iron levels, donating blood on a regular basis also reduces blood viscosity, or thickness. Blood that’s too thick doesn’t transport nutrients to your tissues as well. Generally, men have more circulatory problems due to high blood viscosity than pre-menopausal women. Researchers theorize that a woman’s monthly period helps keep blood viscosity in check.
Donating blood also reduces the risk of cancer. Medical Daily reports that the reduction of iron stores and iron in the body while giving blood can reduce the risk of cancer. Iron has been thought of to increase free-radical damage in the body and has been linked to an increased risk of cancer and aging, says a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers followed 1,200 people split into groups of two over the course of 4 ½ years. One group reduced their iron stores by blood donations twice a year, whereas the other group did not make any changes. The results of the study showed that the group of blood donors had lower iron levels, and a lower risk of cancer and mortality.
The Miller-Keystone Blood Center says that the consistency of blood donations is associated with lower risks of cancers including liver, lung, colon, and throat cancers due to the reduction in oxidative stress when iron is released from the bloodstream.
Another side effect of donating blood is that it can burns a large number of calories. After donating blood, the body replaces all of the blood volume within 48 hours, and all the red blood cells within four to eight weeks.
The University of California in San Diego estimate that for every one pint of blood donated, 650 calories are burned as the body must replenish itself. Although this could be seen as an attractive effort-free way to lose weight, the AHA still encourage people to donate for altruistic purposes for the benefit others first, rather than for themselves.
Finally, donating blood on a regular basis can help keep cardiovascular problems at bay because with each visit you basically get a mini-physical that checks your cardiovascular health. Each time you donate blood, you’ll find out your blood pressure, pulse, and cholesterol levels. You can use that info to make changes in your lifestyle if they’re creeping to levels that put you at risk for cardiovascular problems.