Wellness Wednesday: The Surprising Health Benefits of Donating Blood Regularly

They say giving is its own reward – but when you give blood, your life-saving donation comes with unexpected health benefits for yourself too. Over 300 units of blood are needed each day in Singapore as a lifeline for patients, from leukemia sufferers to those undergoing surgery, according to the Health Sciences Authority. There’s no greater motivation than helping save lives, but if you just need that extra push, here’s how donating can do surprising good for your wellness too – from free health checkups to warding off heart attacks.

Catching Early Health Issues

Prior to giving blood, all donors in Singapore must go through a free medical checkup. This basic screening checks that your blood hemoglobin levels fall within a certain, healthy range for donation, along with vital stats like blood pressure, pulse, and weight. This can be handy for flagging up any health concerns you might be unaware of early on – anemia or high blood pressure, for instance. If your results show a clean bill of health, you get the benefit of peace of mind too!

Boosting Your Emotional Wellness

Photo courtesy of Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash

Ever felt like you want to make a difference in the world, but don’t quite know how? Turns out your potential to change lives is running right in your veins. Donating just one unit of your blood can save up to three lives in Singapore – from accident casualties to patients with blood or bone marrow cancers. And there’s no denying that the no-BS secret to feeling good is doing good for others. There’s nothing like the rush of helping to shape a giving community – one whose support you and your loved ones might in future have to count on in your turn.

Enhancing Your Heart Health

If you thought blood donation only saves those on the receiving end, think again – it could boost your own longevity too. In a recent, groundbreaking Dutch study of 160,000 regular blood donors, women who gave blood frequently over a decade proved to have significantly better heart health and lower cardiovascular morbidity, as compared to those who seldom did so.

Another study on nearly 2,900 middle-aged men in Finland showed that donating blood frequently was associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction – commonly known as heart attack. This is because high iron stores in the body are believed to be a hidden risk factor for heart attacks, with regular blood donation potentially helping to lower and manage iron levels.

Managing High Blood Pressure

Another very welcome side effect of blood donation might just be managing high blood pressure. In 2016, a yearlong study of 300 donors with elevated blood pressure suggested that regular blood donations helped to manage their hypertension, with their blood pressure lowering the more frequently they gave blood. While the long-term benefits of this are still debatable, you can be sure that it’s safe to donate for most hypertensives – and it might just do a world of good.

Preparing to Donate Blood

Besides community drives that pop up from time to time, you can donate blood at any time at one of the Health Science Authority’s four blood banks around Singapore – Outram, Dhoby Ghaut, Woodlands, and Westgate Tower. It’s best to book an appointment online to cut down, but walk-ins are welcome too.

Being eligible to donate blood is simple – as long as you’re in good physical health, weight at least 45kg, and have not had fever and other symptoms in the past month, you should be good to go. If in doubt, the Singapore Red Cross has a short, handy quiz to check your eligibility.

Photo courtesy of Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Giving blood gets even easier when you keep in mind a couple of dietary tips. One essential is fueling up on iron-rich foods a week or two before, to replace iron lost through donation. Get your fill of foods packing both heme iron – meat, shellfish, eggs – and non-heme iron – kale, nuts and beans, and dark chocolate. Another key nutrient to stock up on is Vitamin B, which helps replenish red blood cells in your body. Avocadoes and bananas are high in Vitamin B6, while a cup of B2-rich milk or yoghurt goes a long way.

Staying hydrated should be your watchword – almost half the blood you donate is water, after all. Be sure to drink an extra 16 ounces (or around two cups) before heading down – non-alcoholic drinks like fruit juices work well too. And the hydration shouldn’t stop after donation – over the next few days, make it a point to fill up on H20 to replenish what you’ve lost.

Lifestyle Writer

Jolene has a major sweet tooth and would happily eat pastries for all meals. When she’s not dreaming of cheesecake, she can be found in the dance studio, working on craft projects, or curled up with a good book.