January marks the 53rd anniversary of National Blood Donor Month – a time to recognize the importance of giving blood while celebrating the lifesaving impact of those who roll up a sleeve to help patients in need.
In 1969, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation designating this annual observance to honor voluntary blood donors and to encourage more people to give blood at a time when it is needed. January was chosen because the winter months are typically a time when national blood donations drop due to holiday schedules, weather conditions, schools being on winter break and seasonal illnesses. That’s just one of the reasons why National Blood Donor Month is such an important observance, recognized during a time of urgency. Blood donation is much needed because it saves lives and improves the health of many people. In fact, blood transfusions save 4.5 million Americans’ lives each year.
Along with helping to save lives, donating blood also has some health perks to the donor as well. When you donate blood at a donation center, they’ll perform several tests to see if you are healthy enough to donate and if your blood is safe for another person. The results of these tests can provide you with some important health information, detect any evidence of a viral, parasitic or bacterial infection, and give you insight into your blood type. Donating blood also improves heart health by reducing the thickness of your blood and reducing your chance of a heart attack, along with reducing the amount of iron in your body. You need iron to live, but too much can increase your chances of getting cancer. So basically, in the act of donating blood, you are helping to save a life but you are also doing your body a service.
Donating blood is a simple, safe process. The entire blood donation process, from registration to post-donation refreshments, takes about 30 to 40 minutes. The actual donation typically takes less than 12 minutes, in which you will give 1 pint of blood. In the state of Kentucky, you must be 17 years old (16 years old with parental consent) to donate, weigh at least 110 pounds and meet additional health requirements. The Kentucky Blood Center website (kybloodcenter.org) can help you locate the nearest donor center and even help you schedule an appointment online.
According to the American Red Cross, donating one unit of blood may save the lives of up to three people. With the Commonwealth facing a critical shortage of several blood types, what better time than now to donate and save a life? The need for blood is universal, but access to blood for all those who need it is not. Save a life and donate today!