Renew Your Blood in the Spirit of Giving 

Do all the good you can, and make as little fuss about it as possible. – Charles Dickens 

My favorite Dickens quote speaks to the beauty of altruistic giving. Altruism is among the most noble of human virtues, and the spirit of altruism is the most powerful when the giver benefits as well as the recipient. 

The American Red Cross states that, “One pint of blood can save up to three lives.” What many people do not yet realize is that donating blood also protects against heart disease, improves glucose control in the metabolic syndrome, and can save the lives of blood donors, too. After decades of blood research, my assessment is that these benefits of blood donation are primarily due to improved blood viscosity and blood flow. Other scientists have suggested that decreased iron stores and reduced systemic oxidative stress are the mechanism behind the health benefits of blood donation. Whatever the mechanism, to my knowledge, no one disputes that the health benefits of blood donation are real. 

The American Red Cross has been collecting and delivering banked blood since 1940, saving countless lives. However, because less than 38 percent of Americans are eligible to give blood, the health benefits on the donor-side are limited to a minority of the population. For this reason, we have been sharing information with doctors and patients about therapeutic phlebotomy and hemodilution. For nearly two-thirds of Americans, who are not eligible to donate blood, therapeutic blood removal (phlebotomy) is the only way to access the health benefits. At, you can find additional information about the health benefits of blood donation in the Patient Self-Management section of the site and in a separate commentary on the role of blood flow in metabolic syndrome.

If you are eligible to donate blood, then keep in mind that, when you give blood, you may actually be saving not three lives but four—including yourself. Give blood during the holiday season as an act of charitable kindness, but also as a gift to yourself. 

For Further Reading: 

Donation of Blood is Associated with Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction. The Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Salonen JT, et al. American Journal of Epidemiology 1998;148(5): 445-451. 

In response to “Possible Association of a Reduction in Cardiovascular Events with Blood Donation.” Sloop, GD. Heart 1998; 79:442. 

Back to Past Leeches: Repeated Phlebotomies and Cardiovascular Risk. Manco M, and Fernandez-Real, JM. BMC Medicine May 2012.