Have you ever donated blood, at least, to save a soul? If yes, when last did you engage in such a voluntary mission and how often do you? You might never know how important donating blood is until you or someone dear to you falls ill and be in dire need of blood.
Without doubt, blood transfusion is an essential component of health care and contributes to saving millions of lives annually, in routine and emergency situations. Apart from saving lives, studies have shown that people who voluntarily donate blood have the likelihood of living longer. So, you may need to have a rethink if you are among those who disgusts donating blood.
As the world marked Blood Donor Day yesterday, the clarion call was re-echoed on the need for committed, year-round blood donation, in order to maintain adequate supplies and achieve national self-sufficiency. The theme is: “What can you do? Give blood. Give now. Give often.”
Many people, who donate blood regularly, for the sake of helping people, are indirectly or unknowingly helping themselves. Health benefits of regular blood donation are numerous, according to experts. Usually, donating blood at least five times a year is said to be medically safe.
Interestingly, lives have been saved as a result of blood donated by only five per cent voluntary donors in the country. Others have also died because they could not have access to blood when it is highly needed.
William, a sickle cell anaemia patient and a Higher National Diploma (HND) two level student of the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, died owing to the scarcity of blood, at the time he needed it most. Each time, he was admitted, his parents went through hell looking for money and getting matching blood for William. But when he needed blood most, everything worked against him. There was no donor and his matching blood was not found. And the young man died.
Mrs. Lovely Ebughe was expecting her first child, but ended up not seeing it. She was delivered of baby boy quite all right. However, there was complication, which cause loss of blood. She needed an urgent blood transfusion. While her husband was running around to get blood that will match his wife’s, since his didn’t match, the woman died.
Underlining the benefit of blood donation, a public health consultant, Adegbite Ogundele, who practises in Lagos, told Daily Sun that regular blood donation is of immense benefit to the donor in several ways. According to him, blood donation paves the way for a reduction in the iron level in the body, which helps to lower cancer risk.
He said it could also help in reducing risk of heart and liver ailments caused by iron overload in the body.
Reduces risks of heart attacks
Ogundele said blood donation can reduce the risk of heart attacks to 1/3 times, especially in men, explaining that red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin, serves to bind oxygen.
He said: “The non-heme iron, that is difficult to be absorbed, is actually beneficial because iron is too easily absorbed when consumed even in excess, such as heme iron that comes from meat. If it accumulate in the body it increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
“Iron that accumulates will increase free radicals in the body and can oxidise cholesterol.
however, by donating blood regularly, blood regeneration will take place more quickly; the oxidation of cholesterol becomes slower. In addition, blood flow more smoothly and also can prevent the accumulation of fat and cholesterol oxidation in the coronary arteries walls. This can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
Prevents liver damage
Ogundele said the liver, which helps the metabolism process of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, and carbohydrates, also converts glucose into glycogen and helps in the blood purification and detoxification process. He said: “With donating blood regularly, it means we have to prevent liver damage caused by excess iron in the body. Intake of foods rich in iron can increase iron levels in the body, because iron is only in limited use, the excess iron to be absorbed and stored in the liver and pancreas. This could increase the risk of cirrhosis, liver failure, damage to the pancreas, and heart abnormalities.”
The consultant said after donating blood, the body works to replenish it, thereby, helping to stimulate the production of new blood cells. This, he said, makes the donor to stay healthy and work more efficiently.
He said there were generally no side effects attached to blood donation, apart from the normal decrease in heart rate and blood pressure drop.
Lowers risk of cancer
Cancer is known to be a deadly and dreaded disease. The risk of contracting cancer is often associated with high levels of iron in the blood. The higher iron content, the greater the potential for developing cancer.
The good news for regular blood donors is that the content of iron in the blood can be controlled by means of a blood donation. That is, the risk of cancer of the liver, intestines, lungs, throat and forth, is getting reducing.
By donating blood, Ogundele said donors do not only help others, but also reduce the risk of their cholesterol disease.
“Blood contains iron; if the iron in blood is overload, cholesterol can be oxidised. This means that there will be a blockage in blood vessels. Therefore, it takes a blood donation to reduce the amount of iron in the blood.
He said if the amount of iron was not removed through blood donation, there would be fat deposition on the walls of blood vessels. This, he said, could lead to other diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.”
Acceleration of wound healing/weight reduction
Your body will adjust to the reduction in red blood cells when you donate blood. Adjustment of the body also happens when your body wounds are healed.
Doctors said each blood donation could burn fat up to 650 calories, but quickly warn that blood donation cannot be regarded as perfect antidote to losing weight.
Prevention of premature aging
Ogundele said donating blood makes your mind run smoothly. He identified stress as one of the triggers of premature aging by keeping the skin ever fresh.
In fact, voluntary blood donation is said to be a healthy habit that most Nigerians can engage in, as a means of relieving the shortage of blood supply in the country and also improving their heart health and reducing excess iron in the body that predisposes individuals to cardiovascular diseases, CVDs.
According to other experts, men can donate up to five times a year, while this is limited to three times a year for women.
Statistics show that not less than eight million units of blood are needed in Nigeria, but only about 1.6 million units are collected presently. This is far below the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that 10 per cent of a given population should donate once a year to meet requirements.
Public hospitals in Lagos State and some other states have made it mandatory for pregnant women’s husbands to donate blood at the point of registering their wives for antenatal. However, voluntary blood donation is still less than five per cent in Nigeria. The people who donate are either forced to do it, either because a family member needs it or for economic reasons. But experts maintain that the safest blood donors are voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors from low-risk populations.
Unfortunately, about 15 per cent of child mortality in Africa is traceable to lack of adequate supply of safe blood for transfusion. Also, statistics from WHO on blood transfusion safety, which assesses blood donation trends, safety and priorities, shows that less than one per cent of the population of developing countries, including Nigeria, donates blood, compared with over 65 per cent in developed countries.
A General Practitioner with Lifegate Medicure, Ipaja, Lagos, said blood donation itself was a form of exercise, because if one pint of blood is collected, one will be losing about 650 calories.
He said: “It is certain that with regular donation, you stand not to develop diseases associated with heart problems because you have made your heart work at a pace that is proportional to your body mass. Whether a person donates blood or not, every 120 days, the red blood cells are naturally replaced; so it is advisable to give blood to save lives.
“People with chronic disorders, cancer of the blood, accident victims, pregnant women, and fire outbreak victims can benefit from the pint of blood you are donating. It improves life expectancy and quality of life of patients with a variety of acute and chronic conditions.”
Any side effect
Ogundele said the side effects that require medical treatment are very rare, amounting to less than one in 3,500 cases.
“If you experience dizziness and hovered for a few days, it could be a side effect of blood donation, but it does no harm. Try to take a rest, avoid heavy works, and consume enough water, at least two litres per day, and consume nutritious food, such as chicken, eggs, meat, green vegetables and fruits to restore your power. If the dizziness and the drift continue, you should see a doctor to know your blood pressure and whether there are other infections suffered,” he said.
Where to donate blood
Ogundele: “There are different places where you can easily walk in to and donate blood in a matter of minutes. First, you need to fill a form to ensure the well-being of the donor. Then, your blood pressure and hemoglobin level are measured to make sure that it is safe for you to donate.
Government and government approved hospitals and other public blood recruiting centres best serve the purpose. Defeating procrastination and creating time out of your tight schedule could save a life by donating a pint of your blood today.”