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3 Ways Your Blood Donation Helps

March 04, 2022

Wellness Emergency Primary Care
woman helping a man donate blood

On the fence about becoming a blood donor? Don’t be. Donating blood saves lives. 

Blood donation is a quick, relatively painless procedure that offers a simple – but profound – way to help others.

“We rely on donated blood for so many essential healthcare procedures,” says Lynn Onesty, System Director of Laboratory Services.=. “Blood donors are true heroes, and their selflessness saves lives every day.”  

The importance of blood donation

It’s important to understand that there are four types of blood donation, with whole blood donation being the most common type. If you are at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds and are in good overall health, you can donate whole blood.

When you give whole blood, your donation can be broken down into its component parts – plasma, platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells – to help patients who need them. 

Curious about how your blood donation helps? Here are just a few examples:

1. Trauma patient

According to the American Red Cross, a car accident victim may need as many as 100 units of blood during their trauma recovery. Whole blood donation helps provide life-saving blood to patients who’ve lost large amounts of their own blood in an accident.

2. Cancer patients

Patients who are battling leukemia or lymphoma – or who are receiving chemotherapy for other types of non-blood cancers – often rely on donations of whole blood, platelets, plasma, or red blood cells when their ability to produce healthy red and white blood cells is negatively affected. According to the Red Cross, five units of blood are needed every minute – that’s 7,200 units daily – to help someone going through cancer treatment in the U.S.

3. Patients with sickle cell anemia 

According to the American Red Cross, sickle cell anemia – also known as sickle cell disease – affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. This chronic, hereditary condition results in a lack of oxygen-rich blood, which can cause organ damage or even death. Many sickle cell patients will require one or more blood transfusions throughout their lives to survive.

Benefits of blood donation includes donors

Blood donation is lifesaving for patients who require additional healthy blood, platelets, plasma or red blood cells. But the process of donating blood also offers several advantages for the donor, including better health. That’s because the built-in health screening and blood pressure checkups that occur before any blood donation procedure often alert donors to potential health concerns before they become severe. 

Other studies have suggested that donating blood can actually lower donors’ risk for cardiovascular disease. Researchers theorize this reduced risk could be because blood donation helps lower blood viscosity, thereby lowering the risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Additionally, donating blood allows donors to learn their own blood type – helpful info if you’re ever in need of a blood transfusion due to an emergency. 

What if I have a rare blood type?

The four main types of blood are: Type A, Type B, Type AB, and Type O. Blood is further classified within each type as either positive or negative based on whether or not your blood has the Rhesus (Rh) factor, an inherited protein found on red blood cells. 

Patients are typically matched with blood donation products that match their own blood type.

People with Type O negative blood – representing about 7% of the population – are considered “universal donors,” since their blood can be used by others of all blood types.

Across the U.S., the most common blood types are O positive (38%) and A positive (34%). However, even if you have a rare blood type, such as AB negative (1%) or B negative (2%), your blood is still highly in demand to help others of the same type.

While certain blood types are ideal donors for particular components of blood, whole blood is always accepted from any eligible donor.

“Regardless of your blood type, you should feel empowered and encouraged to donate blood,” Onesty said. “Every blood type is valued and needed. And every blood donation helps save lives.”
Currently, the American Red Cross is reporting historically low levels of blood supplies across the country, in part due to limited donations during the pandemic. 

To help address this critical blood shortage, make plans to donate blood today. To make an appointment at a blood drive near you, go to https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive or go to https://americasblood.org/for-donors/find-a-blood-center/ to find your nearest blood center. 

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