As the recipient of 70 units of blood last year (for bone marrow failure), I know first-hand how important blood donation is, and I am forever grateful for those who helped me when I was in need. On the weekend, I heard an announcement from Canadian Blood Services (CBS); while they are always in need of donors, their current inventory of O-negative blood is very low and they are asking for donors to come forward.
A couple of months back I talked about the risk of iron deficiency in frequent blood donors and the need to replenish iron stores. I want to revisit this subject, especially in light of new data that has surfaced about the importance of iron supplementation for blood donors. While donating blood is an extremely generous act to help others, it is also important to take care of yourself in the process.
If You Are a Blood Donor
First off, if you’re a blood donor, kudos to you and thank you for helping to save lives! According to a 2014 report by Canadian Blood Services (CBS), Iron Status in CBS Donors, 90% of donations come from repeat donors. This report also stated that with each blood donation (500 mL), the donor loses 225 mg – 250 mg of iron. Because of this, blood donors (especially frequent donors) are at risk for developing iron deficiency anemia.
Importance of Iron Supplementation for Blood Donors
Canadian Blood Services allows donors to give blood every 56 days, but it generally takes a lot longer to actually restore the lost iron. A recent U.S. study released in February 2015 highlights the importance of maintaining your iron levels after donating blood.
The study found that taking iron supplements post donation had shortened the time it took to reach 80% hemoglobin recovery (from baseline levels) by 24% – 40%. Furthermore, iron supplementation was effective in shortening the time it takes to fully replete iron stores by 46%. Lastly, two-thirds of those who did not take iron supplements were unable to recover their iron stores within 168 days.
Be Aware of Your Iron Health
Frequent blood donation can lead to progressive iron loss and iron deficiency anemia. And just because you might pass the hemoglobin screening before donating (minimum qualifying level of 125 g/L) this doesn’t necessarily mean that your iron stores are in check.
Being aware of your iron health is extremely important, and if you are a blood donor (or are thinking of donating) make sure that your doctor is aware of this so that your iron status is appropriately monitored.
P.S. If you’d like to be a blood donor, visit https://www.blood.ca/en/DonateNow to find a location near you and book an appointment!
*Article based on study: Oral Iron Supplementation After Blood Donation: A Randomized Clinical Trial (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25668261)
Content and advice provided on The Iron Maiden is for information purposes only and should not serve as a substitute for a licensed health care provider, who is knowledgeable about an individual’s unique health care needs