Someone in the United states needs blood every two seconds, according to the American Red Cross. When we give blood, we do a lot of good for a lot of reasons, including helping people receiving cancer treatment, injured in accidents or battling blood diseases.
That’s why it’s so important to give blood. It’s especially crucial during a public health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, when there’s an urgent need for blood and platelets.
Donating blood comes with benefits for the donor, too. When we donate we get:
- A free health screening. Before donation, your vital signs will be checked. This screening might show something that needs medical attention, such as high blood pressure, and you’ll be screened for infectious diseases.
- A boost to our heart health. Regular blood donation is linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk for heart attacks in men. If your hemoglobin is too high, blood donation helps lower the thickness of the blood, which has been associated with the formation of blood clots, heart attacks and stroke. (Experts believe more men experience this benefit than women because we have a menstrual cycle, which is nature’s way of helping women shed blood viscosity.)
- A mood lift. One blood donation can save up to three lives. Volunteering and helping others have been linked to positive health outcomes, including a lower risk for depression.
If you’re going to give blood, here’s what you should know:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water so it’s easier to find your veins and so you don’t feel light-headed after donating.
- Eat. Don’t skip breakfast, and take advantage of the snacks offered. It takes about 500 calories to replace one blood donation. Think of the juice and cookies as a zero-calorie snack.
- Exercise before, not after. If you hit the gym after you give blood, you might get dizzy.
- Take iron. The American Red Cross recommends that people who donate blood frequently take an iron supplement or a multivitamin with iron so they don’t become deficient.
- Sit back and relax. You’ll donate about a pint of blood, and the process takes eight to 10 minutes.