Written by Todd Freitag
January is national Blood Donor Month, and it just so happens to be the time of the year we give blood less. Blood donations typically drop off during and immediately after the winter holidays, which makes January a critical time for the American Red Cross. The Red Cross needs to collect more than 13,000 donations every day to keep the blood supply ready and available to meet the needs of about 2,600 hospitals, clinics and cancer centers across the country.
National Blood Donor Month has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter – one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. During the holidays and the end of the year, we all become overwhelmed with holiday parties, visiting friends, shopping, wrapping up end of the year deadlines and personal goals; not allowing time to donate. Not only do busy schedules play a role, but Mother Nature herself can wreak havoc on times of donation, forcing cancellations of many blood drives. We like to think that during the holidays, we are all taking breaks to relax and unwind, but those in need of blood and platelet donations are in need no matter what time of year.
Every two seconds of every day, someone needs blood. The reason to donate is simple…it helps save lives. Blood is essential to life for several important reasons including the fact that blood circulates through our body and delivers essential substances like oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells. It also transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells. But did you know that donating blood has it’s health benefits for the donor?
Blood donation helps in lowering the risk of cancer. By donating blood the iron stores in the body are maintained at healthy levels. A reduction in the iron level in the body is linked with low cancer risk.
Reduced risk of hemochromatosis; a health condition that arises due to excess absorption of iron by the body. This may be inherited or may be caused due to alcoholism, anemia or other disorders. Regular blood donation may help in reducing iron overload.
Regular blood donation reduces the weight of the donors. This is helpful to those who are obese and are at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and other health disorders.
After donating blood, the body works to replenish the blood loss. This stimulates the production of new blood cells and in turn, helps in maintaining good health.
Before you donate, a health professional will ask about your current and past health, including some very personal questions, to make sure that you can donate. You will be asked these questions every time you give blood, because the list of who can give blood may change, or your health may change. Having a long-term illness, such as diabetes, doesn’t mean you can’t donate. You may be able to give blood if your health problem is under control. But you shouldn’t donate blood if you feel like you’re getting a cold or the flu.