Y_u might’ve n_ticed we’ve missed _ few things in _ur p_st t_d_y – our A’s and O’s!
We’re getting alongside the World Health Organisation to raise awareness on the importance of the letters O and A – the most common blood types.
June 14th is World Blood Donor Day – a global event organised by the World Health Organisation to raise awareness of the importance of blood donation.
The focus of this year’s event is blood donation in emergencies. WHO says: “In crisis or emergency situation, the natural human response is ‘What can I do? How can I help?’.
“Therefore, the slogan for the 2017 campaign is: What can you do?, with the secondary message: Give blood. Give now. Give often.”
In every country, including yours, there’s a vital need to maintain a regular supply of all blood groups and types, so it’s available to patients when it’s needed.
Simply put, without adequate blood supplies, people would die.
Giving blood is a simple process – and your National Health Service needs blood from thousands of donors every day to treat people in emergencies, and those undergoing long-term treatments.
In 2011 and 2013, the National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey (NBCUS) revealed declines in blood collection and transfusion in the United States. Source: National Institutes of Health
To become a blood donor you must meet certain standards like being within a set age range, being a minimum weight and of course being in good health. Your regular health professional can tell you what these requirements are in your area.
As some rare sub-types are more common in minority ethnic communities your National Health Service will likely be particularly keen to recruit more blood donors from those communities.
If you are pregnant, are on any medications, have recently travelled overseas or have recently had a tattoo, this may also affect your suitability as a donor. Again your regular health professional can tell you what the current regulations are.
In most countries you will need to register with the National Blood Donor Service and you may be set up with an online account so you’ll be able book an appointment at your nearest blood donation centre.
In the days before your appointment, make sure you consume plenty of foods that are rich in iron, such as meats and green leafy vegetables.
Keep yourself well hydrated too, as this will help bring your blood volume levels back to normal after giving blood.
Get a good night’s sleep before your donation, as you’ll feel more alert when you give blood.
On the day itself you’ll be asked to drink 500ml of water immediately before the donation – and it’s also advisable to have a snack to help maintain your blood sugar levels.
Avoid strenuous exercise on the day of your appointment, and wear comfortable clothes with loose sleeves – bearing in mind that your sleeve will have to be rolled up past your elbow when you give blood.
When you arrive for you appointment, it can be a good idea to bring along a book to read or some music to listen to.
You’ll be asked to take a seat – or lie on a bed. Then a blood pressure cuff will be placed on your arm to maintain a small amount of pressure.
Staff will clean your arm with an antiseptic sponge, then insert a needle into a suitable vein. You’ll probably be asked to carry out ‘applied muscle tension’ (AMT) to maintain blood pressure. This involves tensing and relaxing the body’s major muscles – such as clenching and unclenching your buttock muscles.
A scale measures the amount of blood that’s been collected from your arm, and once that level reaches 470ml – which usually take between 5 and 10 minutes – it will automatically stop. The needle will then be removed from your arm and you’ll be given a sterile dressing – after which it’s time for a rest, for at least 15 minutes, with a drink and a snack. Most donor centers will have a selection of drinks and snacks available at the refreshment table. You will be encouraged to relax here for at least 15 minutes and to have at least 2 drinks following donation.
If you feel unwell at any time before, during or after the donation remain seated and alert a member of staff immediately. When it’s all over you may be encouraged you to book an appointment for your next donation. Chances are your local service will have a system whereby you’ll get a letter, email or text reminder when your next donation is due.
Use of donated blood varies from hospital to hospital, but it is always used appropriately. This Red Cross article is useful reading.
In the UK in 2014, 67 per cent of blood was used to treat conditions including anaemia, cancer and blood disorders, 27 per cent was used in surgery, and six per cent was used to treat blood loss after childbirth.
When’s the last time you stopped to appreciate all the good stuff your blood does for you? Without it, oxygen would never reach your cells and carbon dioxide would be filling your blood vessels as we speak.
Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood and more than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day, according to the American Red Cross. So while you may never worry about having enough blood to function, plenty of others aren’t as fortunate. World Blood Donor Day may have passed on June 14, but there’s still more reason than ever to get out and donate.
While giving blood should be all about helping those in need, there are a few things in it for you. Here are four health perks to becoming a blood donor:
“If blood has a high viscosity, or resistance to flow, it will flow like molasses,” says Phillip DeChristopher, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Loyola University Health System blood bank. Repeated blood donations may help the blood flow in a way that’s less damaging to the lining of the blood vessels and could result in fewer arterial blockages. That may explain why the American Journal of Epidemiology found that blood donors are 88% less likely to suffer a heart attack.
It’s not clear if there are lasting health benefits associated with better blood flow. (These kinds of studies can’t prove cause and effect—for example, blood donors might lead healthier lifestyles than the general population.) “What is clear is that blood donors seem to not be hospitalized so often and if they are, they have shorter lengths of stay,” Dr. DeChristopher says. “And they’re less likely to get heart attacks, strokes, and cancers.”
Before you give blood, you’ll first have to complete a quick physical that measures your temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin levels. After your blood is collected, it’s sent off to a lab where it will undergo 13 different tests for infectious diseases, like HIV and West Nile virus. If anything comes back positive, you’ll be notified immediately.
“If year after year your tests come back negative, then you’ll know for sure there’s nothing you’ve been exposed to,” Dr. DeChristopher says. The physical and blood tests are no reason to skip your annual doctor visit, but they’re good for peace of mind. Of course it goes without saying that you should never donate blood if you suspect you might actually be sick or have been exposed to HIV or another virus.
Healthy adults usually have about 5 grams of iron in their bodies, mostly in red blood cells but also in bone marrow. When you donate a unit of blood, you lose about a quarter of a gram of iron, which gets replenished from the food you eat in the weeks after donation, Dr. DeChristopher says. This regulation of iron levels is a good thing, because having too much iron could be bad news for your blood vessels.
“The statistics appear to show that decreasing the amount of iron in otherwise healthy people over the long run is beneficial to their blood vessels, and diseases related to abnormalities in blood vessels, such as heart attack and stroke,” he says.
Still, data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that nearly 10% of women in the U.S. suffer from anemia, a condition where your body lacks red blood cells or hemoglobin (most commonly due to an iron deficiency). In that case, it’s best not to give blood until the anemia is resolved, he says.
Women who haven’t hit menopause yet may find it hard to donate blood, too. “Pre-menopausal females can be somewhat iron depleted with blood counts just under the lower limit,” Dr. DeChristopher says. If you have low iron and you still want to be a donor, taking an oral iron supplement may help you re-qualify, he says.
Doing good for others is one way to live a longer life. A study in Health Psychology found that people who volunteered for altruistic reasons had a significantly reduced risk of mortality four years later than those who volunteered for themselves alone. While the health benefits of donating blood are nice, don’t forget who you’re really helping: A single donation can save the lives of up to three people, according to the Red Cross. “The need for blood is always there,” Dr. DeChristopher says. “It’s important to recognize how important willing donors are.”
Obviously there are selfless reasons for donating blood. For example, to help those in need, much like financial donations to any charity. But if you’re being purely selfish you could think of your donation as being a deposit toward a future withdrawal because you never know when the day will come that you need a transfusion.