4 Health Benefits of Blood Donation

There are more benefits beyond the potential to save another person's life.

Getty Images

Your blood does a lot for your health. For example, without it, oxygen would never reach your cells and carbon dioxide would be filling your blood vessels.

While you may never worry about having enough blood to function, plenty of others aren't as fortunate. Patients dealing with cancer, accidents, burns, heart surgery, and organ transplants all need platelet or blood donations.

Additionally, someone needs blood every two seconds, and one donation can help save multiple lives. However, donating blood can have personal health benefits for you as well—here are four of those benefits plus other things to know about donating blood.

What Are Some Health Benefits of Donating Blood?

You'll Get a Mini Check-Up

Before you give blood, you'll first have to complete a quick physical that measures your pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin levels.

After your blood is collected, it's sent off to a lab where it will undergo tests for at least nine different infectious diseases, like HIV and West Nile virus. If anything comes back positive, you'll be notified immediately.

The physical and blood tests are no reason to skip an annual doctor visit, but they're good for peace of mind. However, you should never donate blood if you suspect you might actually be sick or have been exposed to HIV or another virus.

Your Heart Health May Be Better

"If blood has a high viscosity or resistance to flow, it will flow like molasses," said Phillip DeChristopher, MD, director of the Loyola University Health System blood bank. However, if you donate blood, it becomes less viscous, which can result in easier blood flow.

Additionally, a person who donates blood may have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease due to the easier blood flow and a reduction in the lipid profile (known as a coronary risk panel, which contains coronary artery risk tests).

Over time, repeated blood donations may help the blood flow in a way that's less damaging to the lining of the blood vessels and could result in fewer arterial blockages.

You May Be Able to Keep Your Iron Levels in Check

Adults usually have about 3 to 4 grams of iron in their bodies, mostly in red blood cells but also in bone marrow. Iron is needed for growth, development, and transportation of oxygen to different parts of the body. But having too little or too much iron in your blood can be harmful for your health.

Giving blood frequently is one thing that can lower the amount of iron in your body. Lowering high iron levels can be a good thing as long as they don't go too low.

You might also gain an additional heart health benefit from a decrease in iron levels after blood donations. One study noted that decreased iron levels have been associated with a lowered risk of heart disease.

When you donate a unit of blood, you lose about a quarter of a gram of iron, which gets replenished from the food you eat in the weeks after donation, Dr. DeChristopher said.

Your Body May Lessen Some Types of Chemicals in Your Blood

The body can detoxify itself naturally (e.g., with help from your liver), but giving blood may help your body’s detoxing potential. For example, blood (and plasma) donations have been shown to have an effect on the levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).

What Are PFASs?

PFASs are chemical compounds found in consumer and industrial products (e.g., grease-resistant paper, fire extinguishing foam). These chemicals take a long time to break down and can cause a number of issues, including:

  • Reproductive problems
  • Decreased immune system responses
  • Developmental delays
  • Increased risk of some cancers and obesity

Researchers found that firefighters who gave plasma or blood donations over 12 months had lower levels of PFASs than firefighters who did not donate plasma or blood. This means that the donations seemed to play a role in decreasing the chemicals in the participants' bodies. However, more research is needed to determine if blood donations can provide any other detoxing benefits.

Other Considerations About Blood Donations

Situations That Can Prevent You From Giving Blood Initially or at All

One condition that may prevent you from giving blood is anemia. Anemia is when your body lacks red blood cells or hemoglobin, and it affects up to one-third of the world's population. Anemia is most commonly due to an iron deficiency. You should not donate blood if you have anemia.

People who haven't hit menopause yet may also find it hard to donate blood. "Pre-menopausal females can be somewhat iron depleted with blood counts just under the lower limit," Dr. DeChristopher explained. If you have low iron and you still want to be a donor, taking an oral iron supplement may help you re-qualify, Dr. DeChristopher added.

There are other circumstances where you may not be able to give blood. Other than being sick or having low iron, the American Red Cross mentioned that having traveled to or lived in a malaria-risk country can move your chances of giving blood to a later time.

Additionally, there may be waiting periods after taking medications (for example, antibiotics or blood thinners) or getting vaccinations (like for chickenpox or measles, mumps, and rubella) before you can give blood.

There's a Limit to How Often You Can Donate

One other thing to note is how often you donate blood. Giving blood too regularly can actually lead to iron deficiency.

However, you are able to donate as often as:

  • Every 56 days, up to six times per year, if you are donating whole blood
  • Every seven days, up to 24 times per year, if you are donating platelets
  • Every 112 days, up to three times per year, if you are making a Power Red donation (when a machine is used so that you can donate two units of red blood cells safely)

A Quick Review

If you want to give blood and can do so safely, there are some benefits to blood donations, like receiving a health check-up. Other benefits are good heart health and possible detoxification of PFAS chemicals.

However, while the health benefits of donating blood are nice, don't forget who you're really helping. "The need for blood is always there," Dr. DeChristopher said. "It's important to recognize how important willing donors are."

Was this page helpful?
13 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Red Cross. Who can you help by donating blood?

  2. American Red Cross. Importance of the blood supply.

  3. American Red Cross. Free health screening and blood tests.

  4. Kebalo AH, Gizaw ST, Gnanasekaran N, Areda BG. Lipid and haematologic profiling of regular blood donors revealed health benefits. JBM. 2022;13:385-394. doi:10.2147/JBM.S367990

  5. Bukar A, Tosan E, Obi O, et al. The inconspicuous health benefit of blood donation. Glob J Transfus Med. 2020;5(1):63. doi:10.4103/GJTM.GJTM_14_20

  6. Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron.

  7. Vinchi F, Muckenthaler MU, Da Silva MC, Balla G, Balla J, Jeney V. Atherogenesis and iron: from epidemiology to cellular levelFront Pharmacol. 2014;5. doi:10.3389/fphar.2014.00094

  8. Environmental Protection Agency. Our current understanding of the human health and environmental risks of PFAS.

  9. Gasiorowski R, Forbes MK, Silver G, et al. Effect of plasma and blood donations on levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances in firefighters in Australia: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(4):e226257. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.6257

  10. Turner J, Parsi M, Badireddy M. Anemia. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

  11. American Red Cross. Frequently asked questions.

  12. Reddy KV, Shastry S, Raturi M, Baliga BP. Impact of regular whole-blood donation on body iron stores. TMH. 2020;47(1):75-79. doi:10.1159/000499768

  13. American Red Cross. Requirements by donation type.

Related Articles