Regular blood donation is linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk for heart attacks. “It definitely helps to reduce cardiovascular risk factors,” says Dr. DeSimone.
What’s the connection? “If your hemoglobin is too high, blood donation helps to lower the viscosity of the blood, which has been associated with the formation of blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke,” Dr. DeSimone says. “Interestingly, these benefits are more significant in men compared to women. We think maybe it’s because women have menstrual cycles, so they do it naturally without donating blood.”
People with a condition called hereditary hemochromatosis must have blood removed regularly to prevent the buildup of iron. Fortunately, this blood can benefit others.
“These are essentially healthy patients who are otherwise normal, but they have a gene mutation where they make too much blood, and they make too much normal blood,” Dr. Vossoughi says. “So we can use that blood.”
The New York Blood Center Hereditary Hemochromatosis Program allows people with hemochromatosis to donate blood rather than have it removed and thrown away. “Instead of having to go to a clinic or go to one of our phlebotomy centers every few months to reduce their blood volume, they can go to any local blood drive,” Dr. Vossoughi says. “That blood will then be used for somebody who needs it.”