Sunday Health Hack No. 22 – Roll up your sleeves and save a life – including yours!

Sunday Health Hack No. 22 – Twice a year, go donate blood. Besides that you contribute to saving lives of your fellow humans in critical need for blood, think of it as your very own “oil change” for your “machine” (your body) to perform optimal.

According to the Red Cross, every two seconds someone is in need of blood. While the average blood cell transfusion is approximately 1,5-2 litres, donors usually provide around 0.5 liters of blood per donation.
A single car accident victim can require as many as 50 litres. That’s a lot of blood. No wonder we always hear about the importance of blood donation.
But there are a number of huge health benefits for the donors as well which should make everyone think twice.

Several thousand years ago, whether you were an Egyptian with migraines or a feverish Greek, chances are your doctor would try one first-line treatment before all others: bloodletting.
Considered one of medicine’s oldest practices, bloodletting is thought to have originated in ancient Egypt. It then spread to Greece, where physicians such as Erasistratus, who lived in the third century B.C., believed that all illnesses stemmed from an overabundance of “bad blood”.
In medieval Europe, bloodletting became the standard treatment for various conditions, from plague and smallpox to epilepsy and gout.
But by the late 1800s new treatments and technologies had then largely edged out bloodletting.

Still, many health benefits of bloodletting, today best done by donating blood, have even been proven by scientific studies.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one in every 200 people is affected by a condition called hemochromatosis that causes an iron overload. Many of us don’t even know we have that condition because symptoms don’t show until mid-life and overlap with other common illnesses. By donating blood regularly one eliminates this excess of iron.
For example, by getting rid of excess iron in the blood cells, one significantly reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that participants had a much lower percentage of heart attacks and strokes when they donated blood every six months in comparison to the control group which did not donate.
And in another study by the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found, in a sample size of 2,682 men in Finland, those who donated blood at least once a year had even an 88 percent lower risk of heart attacks than those who did not donate.

Regular blood donation is linked to lower your blood pressure too and thus again to a lower risk for heart attacks. If your hemoglobin (a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues) is too high, blood donation helps to lower the viscosity of the blood, which has been associated with the formation of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks.

Excess iron has also been linked to increase free-radical damage in the body which increased the risk of advancing aging related diseases and even cancer. The Miller-Keystone Blood Center had researched in many trials that consistent blood donation are associated with lower risks of cancers including liver, lung or colon cancers due to the reduction in oxidative stress when iron is released from the bloodstream.

As mentioned in the intro, think of donating blood as your very personal “oil change”, getting rid of old, used, “toxic” liquids, sort of a “detox” too, and your body kick starting to reproduce new fresh “clean” blood.

Sidenote: Donating blood is also a great preventative measurement for detecting “lingering” health issues early on. When you donate blood it is tested for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases. This standard testing indicates whether or not you are eligible to donate based on what is found in your bloodstream.
Additionally, your vital signs will be checked to make sure you are fit enough for the procedure. This exam might turn up a condition that needs medical attention, such as high blood pressure or a heart arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation. And some hospitals and doctor’s even offer to run a full blood test (for checking the mineral levels etc.).

But while there are several physical benefits to donating blood, the most powerful health benefit is arguably “psychological”. Donating blood means that someone (or multiple people) somewhere will receive your “lifesaver” they desperately need. You are helping other humans injured in accidents, undergoing cancer treatment, or battling blood diseases.
The psychological health benefit you receive from knowing you’re helping others can be just as helpful as the physical health benefit. When you roll up your sleeve and sit down in that chair, you know you’re making a difference – and that will make you feel good.​
And this positive feeling of “giving back”, knowing that you will save lives by this simple good “boy scout” deed, has also been linked to positive health outcomes, including a lower risk for depression and greater longevity.

So, my Sunday Health Hack for today – Please overcome your natural “fear of blood” and go donating blood in your local blood donation clinic twice a year.
And just so you know, I am the greatest “chicken” of all, my cardiovascular system going straight into flight modus every time. But it’s worth it. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Stay brave and long-living, Yours  Andreas

Sunday Quote
It is said that blood is thicker than water. It is what joins us, binds us, heals us.

Sunday Music
For some uplifting feelings while sitting in the (clinic) chair, spilling some good old blood …