Space & Innovation

Does Giving Blood Make You Healthier?

For patients with high levels of iron, blood donation may reduce all kinds of risks.

<p>Photo: ThinkStock</p>

Donating blood is one of the easiest things you can do to potentially save a life. In fact, each individual blood donation could save up to three lives.

According to Popular Science, there have never been any recorded long-term negative effects on the donor. After giving blood, it is possible to experience a drop in certain antibodies, but blood will return to normal in a matter of weeks.

"If the body needs more antibodies in the bloodstream, it will produce them extremely quickly," said Gustaf Edgren, a hematologist at Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden.

Edgren also assures that donors are no more likely to develop cancer or have a shorter life expectancy than non-donors.

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Some donors believe that donating blood actually makes them healthier. That line of thinking is correlated with medical bloodletting. Once a popular treatment for many diseases all over the world, it hasn't been widely used since the late 19th Century.

Although bloodletting has been largely discredited in the scientific community, a similar procedure became popular with the iron-store hypothesis, based on the idea that too much iron in the blood can increase our risk of cancer and heart disease.

In support of that theory, it's often pointed out that women get cancer and heart disease less often than men, and they typically have less iron in their blood, since they menstruate.

Some studies show that to be true -- iron is thought to increase free-radical damage in the body, increasing the risk of cancer along with it. Donating blood helps get rid of excess iron, lowering liver, lung, colon and throat cancer risks.

But the most discernible health benefit of blood donation is that you get a quick check-up every time you go. After donating, your blood undergoes a series of 13 tests and if anything of concern shows up, you'll be notified right away.

So, while you can't guarantee disease prevention from donating blood, it is a great way to get early detection of anything abnormal and make sure you're as healthy as possible overall.