Did you know January is National Blood Donor Awareness Month? Starting the new year with a donation to your local blood bank is a rewarding way to give back to those in need in your community and beyond. By participating in your local blood drive, you become a part of something bigger – a communal effort to support healthcare providers and those in need. Offering a free and easy way to give back while fostering a stronger sense of community wellbeing is just one of the benefits of donating blood.
Understanding the Blood Donation Process
Here are some staggering statistics, according to the National Institutes of Health:
- Someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds.
- A single blood donation can save up to three lives.
- Only 3% of age-eligible individuals in the U.S. give blood each year.
Despite those numbers, giving blood is relatively easy for those who are eligible. The government Department of Health and Human Services outlines the following general criteria for eligibility to give blood:
- Must be 17 years or older, or 16 with parental consent
- Weigh at least 110 pounds
- Be in good health, feeling well and not taking antibiotics. Your blood pressure and temperature must meet medical standards.
- Cannot have donated blood in the past eight weeks.
While those are the baseline eligibility requirements, you will also need to fill out a health screening questionnaire to determine if you have any other underlying factors that will make your donation unusable. These can include certain diseases, chronic illnesses, pregnancy, pharmaceutical drug use, blood-borne illnesses and recent visitation to countries where malaria is prevalent.
Addressing Common Concerns
If you’ve never given blood before, or if you have a fear of needles, the thought of being poked can be a little scary. However, giving blood is a very safe, easy and efficient way to give to those who need it. Here are some common misconceptions about giving blood:
- Donating blood will hurt. Sure, there’s the initial momentary needle prick, but beyond that, donating blood is pretty pain-free.
- It takes too long! Actually, it’s super quick. The donation itself only takes about 10 minutes. You might need to register beforehand, but many blood donation agencies allow an option for you to do this online before arriving at the blood donation site.
- My tattoos exclude me from giving blood. In the majority of states, they don’t. In fact, if you get your tattoo in a state-regulated shop, you can give blood immediately afterwards. Otherwise, it’s a three-month wait, but check with your state’s regulations. A handful of states require a three-month wait to give blood after getting a tattoo regardless of where you get it.
- My blood type isn’t in high demand, therefore I shouldn’t donate blood. O negative is the universal blood type, which means it can be used in emergency and trauma situations. Because it is relied upon so heavily, it is in the most high demand. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give blood if you aren’t O negative. According to the Red Cross, every single blood type is vital to saving lives.
- I’m too old to donate. There is no maximum age for donating blood.
- My high blood pressure makes it too dangerous for me to donate. So long as your systolic blood pressure (top number) is 180 and diastolic (bottom number) is 100 or below, you are eligible to give blood.
Saving Lives Locally
Blood donations help patients of all ages, every single day, multiple times a day. Those patients range from trauma and burn victims to people battling cancer or undergoing heart surgery or an organ transplant. The effectiveness and importance of blood donation to saving lives can not be overstated. It is vital to patient health throughout every community, including the Roaring Fork Valley. Here from a local community member who benefited from the life-saving gift of blood donation.
“I started donating blood after a post-operative blood transfusion about 15 years ago, and I have been doing it ever since. It is super easy and comfortable. I highly recommend donating blood if you haven’t before. It feels really good, and it’s a great way to give back to your community.”
-Aspen Valley Hospital Patient
Strengthening Community Bonds
Giving blood is a selfless act, but that’s not to say you won’t benefit from doing so. Community blood drives and events can be a fun and unexpected way to foster unity through a shared purpose. They provide a way to build a culture of giving and support. Whether you’ve given blood more times than you can count or you’re a first-timer, consider making a date out of it. Enlist your partner, family or friends to join you at your local blood drive. Share upcoming blood drive information on your social media platforms or with coworkers.
Health Benefits of Blood Donation
Donating blood doesn’t just help others; it’s a great way to boost your own health and wellbeing – for free! If you’re still on the fence about donating blood, consider the following bonuses:
- Blood donation is a free mini health screening. Technicians take your vital signs, which can catch cardiovascular issues. You’ll also find out your blood type, which is valuable information to have for any future medical procedures.
- Effortless calorie burning. That’s right, your body has to use about 500 calories to replace your blood donation. So enjoy those free cookies, crackers and juice guilt-free!
- Improve your cardiovascular system. Consistent blood donation has been linked to lower blood pressure and possibly a lower risk for heart attacks.
- Happier mental state. Giving back to the community can make us feel more confident and happier. Donating blood is a great way to improve both your mental and physical health.
Would you like to participate in the community uplift happening at Aspen Valley Hospital? Let us know what you’d like to see from us.
Emergency Preparedness and Blood Reserves
Even if your community is not in need of blood right now, donating helps ensure a stable blood supply for a crisis situation. Blood banks are where blood is collected, separated, tested and stored until it is needed. According to the Red Cross, about 13.6 million units of blood are donated per year, and approximately 36,000 units of blood are needed each day. Blood banks help distribute blood to area hospitals when they need it. If your local blood bank has healthy reserves, your community is more likely to be able to save lives in the face of a disaster.
Promoting Community Wellness Programs
The benefits of donating blood go well beyond the life saving measures it provides. In addition to helping those in need, giving blood helps raise awareness about blood disorders. It also encourages all of us to get regular health checkups and stay up on preventive healthcare. Donating blood is a ripple-effect way of giving back, with health implications that reach far and wide.
Giving blood today means a healthier, more united community. It’s a simple act with lasting benefits. Learn more about an Aspen Valley Hospital blood drive near you, and experience the joy of contributing to the health and stability of your community.