Apart from saving lives, donating blood can regulate iron, lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and help keep your liver healthy, says Dr Rashna Pochara.
You don’t need to be a doctor or superhero to save lives.
By donating one unit of blood every year, you can save at least three lives.
On June 14, we celebrated World Blood Donors Day to thank all voluntary donors as well as to raise awareness of the need for blood.
Transfusion of blood helps save millions of lives each year. Every day, hundreds of people lose blood in accidents and injuries and desperately require transfusions to compensate for the dangerous loss.
The problem is that the body can produce its own blood to a certain limit, so the external sources are needed to help the organism to recover.
A healthy man can donate blood every three months while a healthy woman can donate every four months.
At the time of donation the donor undergoes a mini checkup where pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature and haemoglobin are checked.
At the same time a mini general check up is done to rule out any medical conditions like upper respiratory infections etc.
Apart from the joy of helping save lives, there are multiple benefits of donating blood:
1. You can save up to 3 lives
The human body contains around four to five litres of blood. So, donating one unit of blood — 350ml to 450ml — can save up to three lives.
2. Helps in early detection of illnesses
The blood donated is tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, Malaria, Syphilis among others.
Donating blood can help in early detection of any of the above diseases and an early treatment of the same.
3. Lowers risk of heart diseases
Increased levels of iron in the body can increase the risk of heart diseases.
Regular donation of blood can regulate iron stored as well as decrease the viscosity (thickness) of blood, thereby allowing easy flow of blood and decreasing the cause of cardiovascular diseases.
4. Promotes healthy liver
Increased levels of iron in blood can also lead to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Donating blood can balance the iron levels in the body, helping the liver to be healthy.
Haemochromatosis is a genetic disorder in which the body absorbs too much iron from food that our bodies undergo the course of causing excess iron.
Excess iron is then deposited in various organs, such as pancreas, liver, testis / ovary, skin and joints. Donating blood regularly donors can help reduce overload iron.
5. Helps body produce new blood cells
After donating blood the bone marrow is stimulated to produce new blood cells.
Donating blood helping the body stay healthy and work more efficiently.
6. Blood components can also save lives
You can also donate specific components of blood — for example, platelets can be donated by a process called plateletpheresis, where only platelets are taken from the donor’s blood and rest of the blood is returned to the donor’s body.
The platelets issued by this process are more in quantity, better in quality and are utilised for patients with bleeding disorders, in major surgeries, cancer patients etc.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, plasma from cured patients (convalasant plasma) with high antibody titre was extracted by a process called plasmapheresis and used as a mode of treatment in critical covid patients.
7. Helps burn fat
Each blood donation can burn fat up to 650 calories. However, blood donation cannot be regarded as an attempt to lose weight.
A few tips to keep in mind before donating blood:
- The donor should be a healthy person between 18 to 65 years of age with a minimum weight of 45kgs.
- You should be well rested and have had an adequate meal at least 4 hours prior to donation.
- You should not have had a smoke at least 1 hour prior to a blood donation.
- Donors on oral medication for high blood pressure and diabetes should continue with their medication and inform the blood bank staff of the same at the time of donation.
- If donating platelets, medications like asprin should be avoided for three days prior to donation.
- People with piercings and tattoos should avoid donating blood for at least one year.
- Donors should wear loose comfortable clothing, where sleeves can easily be rolled up to expose the site for needle prick.
- Though donating blood is a very safe process, some donors may suffer from dizziness, or bruising at the site of needle prick. It is recommended that post donating blood, you must rest for a while and have some refreshments before proceeding back home. If the dizziness continues, you should see a doctor to know your blood pressure and whether there are other infections suffered.
- You must consume more fluids in the next four hours and avoid fasting or staying hungry.
- A donor should avoid smoking for the next half hour and avoid alcoholic drinks for at least 6 hours after blood donation.
- If there is any bleeding from the site of donation, the arm should be raised and pressure should be applied at the site, till bleeding stops.
- Avoid heavy work, weight training etc. for a day, after blood donation and consume nutritious food such as chicken, eggs, meat, green vegetables and fruits to restore your power.
- Remove the band aid after five to six hours.
Though blood donation of blood takes only 10 to 15 minutes, and is relatively safe, there is a lot of apprehension regarding the same. However, we as responsible citizens should realize that other than the human body, there is no other means of producing blood.
Any healthy individual can make this donation and save precious lives.
Dr Rashna Pochara is the Blood Transfusion Officer, Masina Hospital Blood Centre, Mumbai.
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