The Incredible Benefits of Donating Blood

You already know how important blood donations are. You may have even heard it from AltaMed. But did you know that the benefits of giving blood extend beyond the recipient? Donors have a lot to gain as well.

How can that be, you may ask. You’re losing a pint of blood. Luckily, your body can easily and quickly replenish with the help of the tasty snacks provided at the donation center. Nervous about needles? Phlebotomists are so good at their jobs that four out of five times you can’t even feel it.

Still on the fence? Here’s why giving blood is actually a blessing for your body, and your peace of mind.

Good for You Too

  1. Free screeningsYour vital signs are checked before you’re allowed to donate. This screening is an opportunity to uncover potential high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, or an infectious disease you might not know about. It might also reveal that you have rare blood type which is vital information should you ever need blood in an emergency.
  2. Cardio health — Donating blood is connected to lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart attacks. Donating reduces your blood’s viscosity which has been linked to blood clots and stroke.
  3. Lowering harmful iron — Everyone needs iron in their blood. However, one in 200 people have hemochromatosis, which is too much iron. Donating red blood cells is one way to reduce the excess iron in the blood.
  4. Liver health — Too much iron can also be harmful for your liver. Donating blood reduces the stores of iron and lowers the strain that puts on the liver.
  5. Calorie-free snacks — The staff will insist you have some juice, cookies, or a cereal bar to boost your energy after donating. Your body needs about 500 calories to replace the blood you donated, so eat up! There’s no net calorie gain so long as you don’t go overboard.
  6. Happier life — Most people get a good feeling from donating blood. That good feeling has been linked to positive health outcomes. Put simply, happier people live longer.

Get Some Answers

The demand for blood is high. In fact, someone needs blood every two seconds. If you’re healthy and eligible to donate, give it serious consideration.

Your AltaMed physician can answer any questions you have about donating blood, how it benefits others, and even talk about its benefits for you.

We’re always here to help you and your loved ones. Call AltaMed at (877) 462-2582 to get stared today.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

Learn More

Blood Donor

Do You Have It in You to Donate Blood?

At least two people will need blood by the time you finish reading this sentence. That’s because every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood according to the American Red Cross.

Surgeries, cancer treatments, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries all require some blood product. It could be whole blood, red cells, platelets, or plasma. We all have it within us to make a potentially life-saving donation. Yet less than 38% of the population is eligible to give blood or platelets. Fewer than 10% do it annually.

The demand for blood is even greater during the pandemic as donations have plummeted because of the COVID-19 virus. But anyone who is symptom-free and feeling well is eligible to donate.

What’s Involved?

The actual donation of blood doesn’t take more than about 10 minutes. You will spend more time answering questions and having things like your iron and blood pressure checked, than you will giving a pint of blood.

Whole blood donors can give every 56 days. They must be in good health, feeling well, and weigh at least 110 pounds. Donors can give when they’re 16 if they have a guardian’s written permission.

Donors are registered, will present identification, get some information about donating blood, and provide an address for mail in case the donation center needs to follow up. They will also answer a few health questions, including information about travel. Temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin level are all checked.

The technician or phlebotomist will clean the area for the donation and insert a brand new, sterile needle to draw the blood. They will then bandage your arm after a pint is collected. You will be sitting or lying down the entire time. Afterward, you’ll get a snack, and if you’re feeling well, you’re free to go.

People can also donate platelets. This involves getting hooked to a machine that will take a little of your blood, remove the platelets, and return the blood to your other arm. This cycle gets repeated several times over about two hours. Donors are usually lying down under warm blankets. They also get to watch movies.

Woman Blood Donor

What Happens to Your Blood?

Donation is just the first step of your blood’s journey. After that it’s:

  • Processed — During processing it’s separated into transfusable components like red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. The components are packaged as units which is a standard amount.
  • Tested — This happens at the same time as the processing. The tests determine blood type and check for infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, zika virus, or west Nile. Donors are notified if their samples test positive for infections. Their donations are also discarded.
  • Stored — Suitable units are labeled and stored as red blood cells (for 42 days), platelets (for up to five days), and plasma can be frozen for up to one year.
  • Distributed — It will eventually get shipped where it’s most needed.
  • Transfused — Eventually it finds its way into patients who are having surgery, have been in accidents or burned, are being treated for cancer, or have chronic diseases like sickle cell anemia.

Excuses not to Donate

People are always finding reasons not to donate, despite the desperate need. They include:

  1. Fear of needles — Needles can be scary, but phlebotomists are so good, you will barely notice you’ve been stuck.
  2. Others are donating — They’re not. There is a serious blood shortage.
  3. No demand for my blood type — Blood shortages would be less frequent if all eligible donors gave just twice a year.
  4. I’ve been sick — Criteria for donations continue to change. If you’ve been turned down in the past, you may be eligible now.
  5. Fear of disease — It’s never been safer to donate. All equipment is sterile and used only once.
  6. Not enough blood — Your body makes more blood so you’re eligible to donate whole blood every eight weeks, platelets every two weeks, plasma every four weeks, and automated red cells every 16 weeks.
  7. Not enough iron — Simple changes in diet can boost your iron levels.
  8. Fear of being rejected — See number 4.
  9. Fear they’ll take too much — That won’t happen. They will also make sure you take some time to enjoy some snacks and juice to replenish what they took.
  10. Too busy — How would that excuse go over if it were for you or someone you love?
Young Woman Donating Blood

Get Some Answers

Your AltaMed physician can answer any questions you have about donating blood, how it benefits others, and even how it benefits you. It could lower your iron levels if they’re too high. People who regularly donate blood tend to have better overall cholesterol figures. It’s also good knowing that you helped someone.

We’re always here to help you, regardless of what questions you have about yourself or a loved one. Call AltaMed at (877) 462-2582 to get stared with us today.

Hand Blood Pressure

Don’t Ignore Blood Pressure, Control It

More than 100 million people — or half the adults — in the United States have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. It means their heart works harder than necessary to move blood through the body.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, kidney problems, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, and dementia.

Hypertension has been called “the silent killer” because there are no obvious symptoms. The only way to know you have high blood pressure is to get it checked regularly.

Couple Running in the Park

Know how to manage risks

Being overweight makes your heart work harder. Eating a high-cholesterol diet does too. If you don’t exercise, and you smoke, drink too much, eat a salty diet, and generally don’t take care of yourself, you’re a prime candidate for high blood pressure.

The good news is you can control those factors.

  • Stop using tobacco: Smoking, dipping, chewing and vaping all raise your blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly: Just 30 minutes of brisk walking three days a week helps reduce blood pressure.
  • Cut back on salt: Eating fewer processed or fast foods will help reduce your salt intake.
  • Lose some weight: Extra pounds make your heart work harder. Cutting out the calorie-dense snacks is the best way to lose weight. AltaMed has registered dieticians who can help you create a healthful eating plan.
  • Cut back on caffeine: Try having one less cup of coffee per day to start.
  • Reduce stress: Find ways to eliminate some obligations or create some calm time for yourself.
Father and Son Smiling

Some factors you can’t control

While staying healthy plays a huge role in controlling or even avoiding high blood pressure, you can’t escape who you are. Your family history plays a role in whether or not you face increased risk for high blood pressure. It also affects African Americans more frequently.

Hypertension affects more Black adults (54%) than any other group. High blood pressure also develops earlier in life and is more severe. There are a number of theories about why this happens including the higher rates of obesity and diabetes among African Americans. There may also be a gene that makes African Americans more sensitive to salt, which boosts blood pressure.

Control of blood pressure among Black adults is also lower (25%) than it is among non-Hispanic white adults (32%). Among Hispanic adults only 25% have their blood pressure under control, but among Asian adults it’s only 19%.

Racial disparities in the access to treatment and care have been cited as factors in the frequency and management of high blood pressure. Some groups have limited access to jobs that provide health insurance, so they don’t have access to regular doctors who could help them identify their conditions, or professionals who could help them monitor or control their hypertension. In Southern California, qualifying residents have AltaMed to provide that support.

Doctor Checking a Patient's Blood Pressure

Hypertension in women

High blood pressure affects men slightly more often than it affects women. However, women face special circumstances that can lead to high blood pressure. A woman’s chance of developing hypertension goes up being just 20 pounds overweight.

They’re also at greater risk once they have reached menopause. In menopause, the woman has gone at least a year without having a period. Blood pressure goes up along with the “bad cholesterol” and certain fats in the blood. “Good” cholesterol declines or stays the same.

Women with perfectly healthy blood pressure can develop hypertension during pregnancy. It effects one in 25 pregnancies and usually goes away after delivery. But if it’s not controlled, it can be life-threatening for the mother and baby.

Mounting (Blood) Pressure

If you have high blood pressure or think you might, regular checkups can ensure it stays in an acceptable range or take action if it’s not. Some people may need medication to control their blood pressure but making healthy lifestyle changes should always be the first course of action.

Learn how to get started with AltaMed or call us at (888) 499-9303.

The Incredible Benefits of Donating Blood