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Donating Blood and Plasma

Donating Blood and Plasma

Written by Lucy Scott - Remedial Massage Therapist | 16th August 2023

I was recently chatting with Nathan, one of our talented Osteopaths at CHH, who asked me to write a blog about something I'm passionate about. So I got to thinking.... I'm very passionate about blood and plasma donations and have been for many years. It was always something that was so easy to do and helped so many people so for me, it was a no brainer. But I realised recently that not many people fully understand the benefits of blood donation on their own bodies in addition to how it impacts others. So here's me, Lucy Scott, Remedial Therapist at CHH educating you on how awesome it is to be a blood and plasma donor.

1. Giving blood may reduce your risk of heart disease

Some research studies suggest that men who donate blood are less likely than most to have severe heart disease. The thinking goes that too much iron in your circulation can cause damage to blood vessels, and you can limit this damage by reducing the level of iron in your body by donating blood. While this effect is particularly true for people with hereditary haemochromatosis (who need to have iron removed regularly), it may also apply to men more generally. If you’re menstruating, you’re unlikely to have excess iron, so it won’t be the case for you. You’re actually at lower risk of heart disease anyway. In fact, you may need to top yourself up with an iron supplement. Either way, keeping an eye on your haemoglobin levels at each blood donation can help keep your iron on the right track.

In other news about cardiovascular health, some studies suggest that regular blood or plasma donation may reduce your blood pressure if it’s too high. Although this result is exciting, there’s more work to be done to figure out exactly why, and how big the effect may be.

2. Frequent plasma donation may reduce your cholesterol

A study conducted by researchers for Grifols (a commercial plasma collector in the USA) found that donating plasma may lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol in donors who have high levels. What’s the catch? This study used very frequent donations (twice per week) over a short period of time. In Australia, you can only donate plasma once a fortnight so your body can have plenty of time to recover between donations. That’s not to say that donating plasma less frequently won’t help — but we expect any effect on cholesterol to be lower. Donors tend to be healthier anyway!

One thing that makes it difficult to work out whether donating blood or plasma improves your health is a thing called “The Healthy Donor Effect”. Donors are generally healthier than the average population, because they need to be healthy and well to donate. Some donors may even pay more attention to their health so they can keep donating. So simply comparing the population of donors with the general population may not give a true answer for how donation itself affects the body. Biostatisticians have developed ways to help account for the Healthy Donor Effect, but many of the published studies haven’t done so (yet!).

3. Donating blood may help your old skin look younger… if you’re a mouse.

Researchers who studied blood donation in elderly male mice found that mice who donated blood every two weeks (mouse sized blood donations are up to 200 microlitres, which is about 4 drops) had less iron in their skin, fewer wrinkles, and more collagen in their skin (collagen is the bit of your skin that keeps it elastic). This benefit is not (yet) confirmed in humans, and it’s a big step from elderly male mice to a general human population. We do know that donating blood is safe for healthy older people, so while we can’t say that it will keep you looking young, there’s no harm in trying! If you start donating at Lifeblood before your 76th birthday, you can keep donating to any age you want, as long as you meet the other eligibility criteria.

4. You’ll feel that “warm glow” of helping others

When the donation’s over, you’ll likely feel calmer and more joyful than you did when you walked in. A study of Australian blood donors tracked how they felt throughout their experience in a donor centre. Our researchers found that most donors felt less stress, and more calm and joy as they progressed through their donation. The only exceptions were those who didn’t feel much stress in the first place! When you go home, you’ll be able to bask in that “warm glow” of knowing you’ve helped someone in need, and you’re part of a community. You’re the Lifeblood of Australia.

SO there you go.... One benefit that they failed to mention, however, is that donating blood and/or plasma takes about 500 calories of energy so you can enjoy a guilt free snack post donation (my favourite part!!).

You can learn more about your eligibility at