Bloody Good Idea: The Many Benefits of Donating Blood

July 4, 2011

A certain HBO show has folks obsessing about blood this summer, and the timing could not be better. Supplies of the life-giving liquid reach critical lows during the high-temperature months. “Not enough people are donating, because the weather’s good and they’re on vacation,” says Dr. Ralph Vassallo, Red Cross’ chief medical officer for the local region. “Donating blood is the last thing on people’s minds.” But it’s not just vampires who could use a few pints — for recipients, your A, B, AB or O could be the difference between life and death. And getting drained comes with some perks for you, too.

Check Up
Before you can roll up your sleeve and offer a vein, Red Cross staffers check your temperature, iron level, blood pressure, hemoglobin levels and pulse. “It’s like getting a small-scale mini-physical,” Vassallo says. If you have high blood pressure, low iron levels, an irregular heartbeat or a fever, the team will catch it during the examination process.

Snack Time
You’d have to run three to four miles to lose 350 calories. Or, you can donate a pint of blood. Don’t go biting everything in sight, but you can definitely reward yourself with a treat. “You can eat a single candy bar,” Vassallo says.

Iron It Out
Routine blood-bank deposits can help treat a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis, which, Vassallo says, affects about one in 225 Caucasians (it’s much less prevalent in people of other ethnicities). It causes increased iron absorption in the gut, which can lead to potentially fatal organ damage. “The treatment is to take off a unit of blood,” Vassallo says. “However, if you’re donating frequently, the disease may never reveal itself, because your iron won’t have the chance to build up.”

Warm Fuzzy
It’ll certainly make you feel better about yourself than watching TV at home. Plus, pitching in can help give you peace of mind. “If you know the blood supply is adequate, you know that your colleagues, your friends, loved ones and you are all safe if something happens,” Vassallo says.

» There are a dozen donation centers in the Washington region, including one downtown location at 2025 E St. NW. Find additional locations and hours, and schedule an appointment by visiting Redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-733-2767.

Written by Express contributor Nevin Martell

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