Every year around the world, June 14 marks World Blood Donor Day, a day that raises awareness on the importance of blood donations.

So, why should you consider donating your blood?

Did you know that a single car accident victim needs as many as 100 pints of blood? Whereas a single leukemia patient often needs platelets from 10 or more donors?

Blood is a vital resource.

According to the American Red Cross, one donation can save as many as three lives.

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After being tested for infectious diseases,  the whole blood you donate is categorized according to red cells, platelets, and plasma, and stored separately.

Red cells

These are the cells that carry fresh oxygen throughout the body. They are usually given to trauma patients, new-borns and emergency transfusions during birth, people with sickle cell anemia, and anyone suffering blood loss.

They are stored for up to 42 days.

Platelets

Platelets are tiny cells in your blood that form clots and stop bleeding. They are most often used by cancer patients and others facing life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

They can be stored for up to 5 days.

Plasma

Since AB plasma can be given to anyone regardless of their blood type, it is used in emergency and trauma situations to help stop bleeding.

It can be kept for up to 1 year.

A blood donation not only improves and prolongs the life of a patient suffering from a life-threatening condition, it is also used for treatment during all kinds of emergencies, be it natural disasters, accidents, or armed conflicts. Hospitals typically store blood units but may request more at any time, such as in case of large-scale emergencies.

If you’re nervous about having never given blood before, focus on the positives and think about all the people your blood will help!

1) Being a blood donor saves lives

Especially if you have type O blood!

Blood donations typically need to match the blood type of the recipient but people with type O blood are considered “universal donors” and their blood can be matched with people of every blood type. If you don’t have type O blood, you should remember that all types of blood are valuable and does help save lives.

And since cells like platelets have a short shelf life, a regular supply of blood and donors is constantly needed. Regularly donating blood can help people get a new lease on life.

2) Donating blood only takes a few minutes!

A whole blood donation takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Simply head over to the refreshment area afterward to have a snack and go back to your everyday routine in around 10 to 15 minutes. If you want to donate again, you can do so in 56 days.

If you’re donating your platelets, however, this process will take slightly longer. A machine known as the apheresis machine is designed to collect platelets. It does so by collecting a small amount of your blood, removing the platelets, and returning the rest of the blood through your other arm. Because the cycle will be repeated several times over, the entire process takes about 2 hours.

3) Donating blood can improve your emotional health

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And it turns out that donating blood doesn’t just benefit recipients. There are health benefits for donors, too, on top of the obvious benefits that come from helping others.

Donating blood can lead to:

-Improved emotional well-being and physical health

-Having a sense of belonging and reduced isolation

-Reduced negative feelings and/or stress

This all arises from a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after donating.

4) Giving blood leads to better health outcomes

Compared to non-donors, donors have 33-88% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). Giving blood regularly also helps reduce blood viscosity, or the thickness of your blood, which potentially lowers blood pressure and the risk of plaque rupture.

500ml of blood, or up to 250mg of heme iron, is lost in a single blood donation. This helps reduce oxidative stress and malignant cells and may protect against insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, and cancer.

5) Attending a blood donation drive comes with a free health check-up

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As there are certain health prerequisites you must meet when donating blood, you can expect a free health check-up upon attending a blood donation, to ensure the blood you are donating will be safe and usable.

Although this shouldn’t be your sole reason for giving blood, as the tests are only specific to your blood, getting tested, especially if you might not have done otherwise, can provide helpful insight into your health and help you make better lifestyle choices.

How should you prepare for a blood donation?

First things first, make sure you’re eligible to give blood. Depending on where you live, the age and weight restrictions may vary. Your state of health may also determine if you are able to donate. Look these up before proceeding with the following.

1) Make an appointment

Do some research to find a blood drive in your area and register. Sign up for any mailing lists that alert you when a blood donation drive is happening.

2) Eat the right foods

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Eating more iron-rich foods helps make up for the blood that you’ll be donating. This increases iron levels in your body and reduces your risk for iron deficiency anemia.

Meats like beef, lamb, and chicken, and fish like tuna, haddock, and mackerel are just some examples of foods that are rich in heme iron.

If you are vegetarian, consume foods that are rich in non-heme iron such as vegetables like spinach, broccoli, kale, and chard, and beans like kidney, garbanzo, and lentils.

It’s best to avoid fatty foods like burgers, fries, and ice cream before giving blood, as the fats that will be present in your blood will affect any blood infection tests conducted.

3) Rest well beforehand

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Being well-rested before a donation helps put you at ease and makes the donation process smoother. If you feel faint after a donation, simply lie down and rest for a while until you feel better. Your body should replenish the lost blood in a few days.

4) Check your medication

Although being on medication will not disqualify you as a blood donor, if you are on certain medications, you may not be able to give blood right away. Taking medication like aspirin requires a minimum 2-day waiting period before donating platelets, for example. Check with the blood drive representatives or look it up on Red Cross beforehand if you are unsure.

5) Go with a friend

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If it’s your first time and you’re nervous, bring a family member or a friend along! Not only will they provide you with the emotional support and encouragement you need, they can also take part in the blood donation and join you in saving lives.

At the end of the day, there’s really no need to be afraid of donating blood. New, sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, hence removing any risk of contracting a bloodborne infection when donating.

Remember that people need blood. So do your part and give blood to save lives today!

How Halza Helps

Store, track & share your medical data with Halza. Upload records and photos, like your blood donor card, for future reference. Add the results of your pre-donation physical examination under Vital Signs. Track your weight, blood pressure, heart rate, haemoglobin levels and more on the app.

Take note of the next blood donation drive and set a reminder for yourself. Share your blood donation experience with your circles on the Halza Feed, and don’t forget to add pictures! Halza is also available in 26 languages, perfect if you find yourself in a medical emergency while overseas.

Sources: WHO, 2Florida HealthBetter HealthHealthlineNCBIRed Cross