Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood — and each day, approximately 43,000 pints of blood are used to save lives in the U.S. and Canada. This donated blood is crucial for organ transplant recipients, cancer patients, and victims of accidents.
Perhaps you’re a regular blood donor yourself or maybe you’ve been considering giving blood for the first time. First, it’s important to be aware that despite common misconceptions, there’s no such thing as “too old” to be a blood donor.
One study concluded that it is both clinically feasible and efficient for healthy adults older than the age of 66 years to donate blood. Basically, as long as you meet the eligibility requirements, there is no upper age limit for blood donation.
Below, we discuss five surprising benefits of giving blood that extend beyond that warm and fuzzy feeling of helping others.
1. Get a free wellness check
Before giving blood, it’s required for a donor to go through a physical assessment. This includes checking blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate and sometimes cholesterol.
Though this isn’t a substitute for a routine physical exam done by your PCP, it’s a useful marker to see where your health stands. Plus, certain organizations allow regular donors to see their trends over time through an online donor portal — another perk to being a dedicated donator.
2. Find out if you have anemia
During the pre-donation process, blood donors are given a hemoglobin test which lets you know if you have anemia. Anemics don’t have enough red blood cells circulating in their body and this condition can pose large health issues in older adults.
However, once you know you have anemia, it’s typically easily treatable. This free hemoglobin test is another positive that comes out of the blood donation process.
3. Find out if you have an STD
After you’ve gone through the drawing process and the needle is out of your arm, your blood is automatically tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The test includes screenings for syphilis and HIV which you’ll be notified of your status for.
If you’re positive, though, don’t panic. These tests are extremely sensitive so you’ll be retested if you get positive results. However, if you do think you have an STD or STI, visit your doctor, not a blood donation center.
4. Find out if you have other infectious diseases
Infectious diseases are included in the slew of conditions tested for post-blood donation. These include West Nile virus, hepatitis B and C, Zika, and Chagas’s disease (a parasitic infectious disease).
The same goes for these results: Don’t panic. You’ll be retested if you’re positive and if those come back positive again you’ll be able to get the treatment you need.
5. Boost your mental health
According to givingblood.org, the number one reason blood donors say they give is because they “want to help others.”
This sort of altruism doesn’t only have mental benefits, its also been proven to lower blood pressure, according to a study in Health Psychology.
Simply knowing that a pint of your blood saved up to three lives is enough to improve the mental and physical health of just about anyone.