Donating Blood is Great for Your Heart

If you are looking for a simple strategy to improve your health and lower the risk of illness, why not donate blood?

Yes, it is that easy. Donate blood at your local hospital or Red Cross. They won’t take your blood? Find a site for what is called “therapeutic phlebotomy.” We do this in our office almost daily.

Why Should You Donate?

Iron is a very important element and is considered the lifeline of blood. It makes up the center of the hemoglobin protein, essential to oxygen transport inside a red blood cell. But too much iron can be dangerous.

Why would we have to much iron in our body? There are many factors including iron-fortified foods and the fact we do not bleed often. Our ancestors used to injure themselves, leading to blood loss. Modern man does not. Menstruating women bleed, and this may be preventive, thus the lowest heart attack risk in this group.

Why Is Iron Dangerous?

Iron can induce lipid peroxidation in vitro and in vivo in humans and has promoted ischemic myocardial injury in experimental animals. Damaged lipids are an initiating factor in coronary artery disease.

Iron intake from food can increase heart attack risk. One reason may be that iron from food lowers HDL concentration.

Intravenous administration if iron causes inflammation, immune activation and oxidative stress. These 3 factors are fundamental to atherosclerosis and heart attacks.

High Serum Iron and Ferritin are Trouble

High blood levels of iron is linked to a higher heart attack risk. On the contrary, this study in women did not find a higher risk with high iron.

A study from 1992 found that men with a high level of ferritin, the storage form of iron, had a 2.2x higher risk of a heart attack and ferritin. The risk was even higher in people with high LDL (above 190) and in those who consumed high iron from foods. A 2014 study found similar results as did this study from 2012. High ferritin, a storage from for iron, is dangerous.

Serum ferritin, when high, is linked to carotid atherosclerosis. Disease in the arteries of your neck that supply the brain is not a good thing and raises stroke risk.

Ferritin is also elevated in those with peripheral artery disease, thus increasing the likelihood of circulatory issues in your legs. Higher ferritin is more common in people with elevated blood sugar and pre-diabetes. In fact, many studies have found high blood ferritin is linked to diabetes, insulin resistance and the Metabolic Syndrome.

Check Hemoglobin Too

Another recent study found that men with very high or very low hemoglobin were at greater heart attack risk. This bring up a dangerous issue given the fact testosterone therapy in men often raises hemoglobin levels, this leads to a higher risk of heart attack. High and low levels of hemoglobin are linked to stroke risk, but only in women. The answer is to donate blood.

Donate Blood

Almost 3,000 middle-aged men were followed for 9 years. Only one man out of 153 men who donated blood experienced a heart attack. This is compared to 12.5% of men who experienced a heart attack and never donated blood. This was a massive difference! Even after adjusting to for other factors, the risk reduction was 88%. Donating blood prevents heart attacks. .

Once per month, once every two months, or whatever is necessary. I find that a hemoglobin under 14 mg/dl is appropriate and a ferritin below 100, and preferably around 50. Get tested frequently to determine your status of hemoglobin, serum iron and serum ferritin.

If you can donate blood, great. A life may be saved from your donation. But if you are not eligible to donate, it is time for therapeutic phlebotomy. Blood is drawn, typically 500 cc, and discarded by the phlebotomist (person who draws the blood).

Prep for donation with a good meal, a good night sleep, and staying well-hydrated before and after the draw. Have a friend or family member go with you.

For more information, get the book, Dumping Iron on Amazon.

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