Giving blood-- any longterm harm?

I know there are no real benefits from giving blood. But is there any harm in being tapped every 2 months? Has any research been done on this?

As far as I’ve heard, giving blood reduces iron in the
bloodstream, which is maybe a good thing for men.

Some study I heard about on the news said the risk of
heart disease was lower in men who gave blood regularly,
and they postulated it was because the iron, which can
build up too high in men, was kept in check.

However, men who give blood tend to have healthier
lifestyles than non-givers, and it’s hard to separate
out those factors.

But I’ve never heard that giving blood has negative
effects on health. Obviously, they don’t take it from
people with anemia.

You hear about herion addicts destroying their veins by sticking needles into their arms on a regular basis. I wouldn’t think that giving once every 2 months or so would have the same effect. Doesn’t seem often enough. Anybody know?

I have to take exception with your statement that there is no benefit to blood donation. Cecil seems to be unconvinced in his column Does giving blood reduce your chances of getting heart disease? (28-Apr-2000)

But Cecil did not mention several Finnish studies on the subject. One Finnish study found an 86% reduction in myocardial infarctions among blood donors compared to non-donors.

I’ve given blood regularly for almost 25 years, and that includes whole blood as well as aphoresis (platelet donation), and have never heard of anybody reporting long term harm. The benefits are still being debated, but taking a reasonably small amount of blood (a pint) every few months has never caused me to get sick, become weak, or suffer any other ill effects I am aware of. My guess is that it stimulates my body to keep producing more red cells which is probably a good thing. My personal doctor, who is a cardiologist, encouraged me all along and I trust that he would have warned me if their were any downsides.

Some people confuse donating plasma with donating blood, and I can assure you there is some risk in donating plasma. An acquaintance of mine gave plasma, and as the first phase of the process, they give you some sort of drug injection. She had an instant reaction due to a previously undiagnosed medical condition, and she went into shock and was rushed to the emergency room. She said she almost died, and even weeks after the event when I saw her, she looked like death warmed over. I’m not sure of all the medical details, I didn’t want to press her for details, so maybe some M.D. reading this can take a guess at what happened.

My doctor told me that when you donate blood, your blood pressure may drop a bit. Since I have borderline high blood pressure, every little bit helps.

Altruistic acts (such as giving blood) do tend to provide psychological benefits.

However, I’ve wondered myself sometimes if I could be doing myself some (small) amount of harm. I have small, difficult to tap, veins. If I give blood on a regular basis (I currently do about twice a year), am I building up scar tissue which could possibly make it more difficult for me at some time in the future (when I’m old and ill and need repeated blood tests to diagnose what is going on)?

I’d be interested in hearing from some folks in the medical field who have experience with this. Obviously, the Red Cross et al wouldn’t want to publicize such minor risks, even if they are minimal, since the public health benefit of receiving donor blood is much greater than the potential harm to the donor, and they have a hard enough time finding enough donors as it is.

Funny this should come up now, but I just saw a study published last week which purported to demonstrate that there was no reduction in coronary events (non-fatal or fatal heart attacks) in men who donated blood regularly.

The authors of the study* include two of the foremost epidemiologists in the World - Stampfer and Willett.

[sub]*just click on first author’s name once you’ve reached the link above[/sub]