Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, America is facing a serious shortage of blood. It’s so bad that some medical professionals are calling it the worst blood shortage they’ve ever seen before. If you’re one of the 37 percent of Americans eligible to give blood, you should help by donating a pint as soon as possible, and then donating regularly as often as you can.
Donating blood is the right choice for your community. A single donation can save up to three lives. But donating blood doesn’t just help the sick and injured. It’s also the right choice to protect your health and well-being.
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Giving Blood Protects Your Health as a Donor
When you give blood, you usually think about the health benefits for the recipient of that donation. One in seven people who enter the hospital in the U.S. need blood. During blood shortages like the one we’re facing right now, elective non-urgent procedures are canceled or rescheduled so that limited blood supplies can be directed to the patients who need them most. Doctors have to make tough decisions about which patients can receive blood products, and that could mean some patients — even those requiring emergency intervention — could receive suboptimal care.
Between the lockdowns, mask mandates, and social distancing requirements, it’s been difficult to get out and give blood during the pandemic. Most blood products come from yearly blood drives, many of which were canceled over the past year, as communities strove to stop the spread of the virus. There’s never been a better time to donate blood.
Your blood donation could save someone’s life, but it could also have health benefits for you. Giving blood can lower your blood pressure, and protect your cardiovascular health by removing some of the iron from your blood. Iron in your blood can affect your arteries and raise your risk of heart attack, but studies indicate that giving blood regularly can lower your heart attack risk by a whopping 88 percent.
Donating blood is also good for your liver, especially if you have a condition like hemochromatosis that causes your body to produce too much blood or elevates the iron levels in your blood. High iron levels have been linked to multiple liver diseases, and the most effective way to lower your blood iron levels is to regularly remove a little of your blood.
If you have hemochromatosis, you can still donate blood – your blood is perfectly healthy, you just have too much of it. And many people don’t even know they have hemochromatosis, which is usually genetic. So giving blood regularly can protect your blood vessels and organs on the off-chance that you have this relatively common blood disorder.
Feel Happier and Healthier When You Give Blood
You might feel a little woozy after you give blood, but as long as you eat a good meal beforehand and chow down on the cookie and juice the nurse gives you afterward, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about low blood sugar. You’ll recover quickly from the loss of blood, and you could find yourself floating on a cloud of happiness, optimism, and self-confidence thanks to your generous act of giving blood.
It’s true — people who regularly volunteer or perform other altruistic acts report better health and more happiness than those who do not help others. And while you can always get some of the warm fuzzies by giving a few dollars to a homeless person or helping a neighbor, it’s really the organized, formal opportunities for altruism that are the most beneficial psychologically.
Not only will you feel better about yourself for having done something to help someone else, you’ll also get the opportunity to form social ties with others who also volunteer to give blood, or who work at the blood donation center. These weak ties that you share with acquaintances and near strangers in your community can actually have a profound impact on your psychological and emotional well-being.
If you go down to the blood bank and donate blood regularly, you’ll feel less isolated, lonely, and depressed simply because you’re getting the opportunity to chat once in a while with acquaintances who work there and others who might come in to give blood. Some of those ties might even evolve into full-fledged friendships.
With the nation facing a severe blood shortage, blood donations are urgently needed. It’s time to go down to your local blood bank and give your pint. It’ll help your community, and it’ll help you, too.
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