A few years back I started donating blood on a regular basis. The main reason why goes back to a memory of my mom coming home with a sticker on her shirt. It read something along the lines of: Be kind to me. I donated blood today. I don’t remember her talking about it, but then again she never drew attention to the charitable things she did. However, as soon as I was old enough to make that decision on my own, I knew that giving blood was an important thing I wanted to do.
I got out of the habit for various reasons, but now I’ve vowed to make it a priority again in 2017. Once I came to this decision, curiosity got the best of me. I decided to look for reasons why it’s such a good idea to donate blood . As per usual, my research uncovered some interesting facts.
Let’s get the most obvious reason out of the way: donating blood saves lives. According to America’s Blood Centers, each pint of blood you donate can save up to three lives. That’s impressive. I also learned that someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds, but we have no artificial way to make it.
In other words, if you end up in a medical emergency that requires a blood transfusion, you must depend on the generosity of those who took the time to donate. Yet only 10 percent of eligible citizens donate each year. Hmmm.
Other than the altruistic benefits, donating can be a good thing for your own health as well. Studies show that routine blood donation can reduce your risk of heart attack by up to 88 percent by keeping your body’s iron stores in check. Too much of any one thing can end up causing problems.
Of course, a variety of lifestyle choices are associated with the likelihood of having a heart attack. For example, donating blood on a regular basis won’t negate the effects of being a smoker. But donating blood can be part of a healthy lifestyle, but it can’t be a substitute for one.
Another health benefit of donating blood is that you get a little health checkup each time you go in— your blood pressure, pulse, and hemoglobin levels will all be checked. (And of course your blood itself will be tested for infections and diseases such as hepatitis and HIV to make sure it’s healthy and usable.) This mini-checkup shouldn’t take the place of your regular physical, but it can give you peace of mind that all is well.
I believe we’re all on this planet to be of service to others. At the same time, pursuing our own happiness can often benefit others as well. It takes both self-fulfillment and selflessness to create those feel-good vibes that all of us need, and donating blood can do just that. The American Psychological Association reports that volunteering in any manner can lead to longer life.
I’ve confirmed what my mother taught me so many years ago, simply through her actions—being a blood donor is important. Each and every day, our fellow citizens need this valuable resource. I found the closest local donation center (here’s a great resource to find yours), and I plan on making an appointment today.
If you’ve so far steered clear of donating blood, consider checking it out. First time blood donors can learn all about what the process entails from the American Red Cross. They even offer suggestions to help people get over their fear of needles. The entire donation process takes less than an hour. Pretty simple, right?
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