Blood - do we need all that stuff we have inside?
The blood, as we all know, is the way the body feeds itself and it helps us to heal when we injure ourselves, but do we need all of what we carry around in our bodies? What are the benefits of being a blood donor?
So, let's start with the basics. The human body has roughly 10 pints of blood, but only require 8 pints to function normally, so we are fully able to donate a pint of blood every 6 months. However, it is possible to donate every 6 weeks but the transfusion service do not recommend it.
But what makes blood so important?
Blood is formed from four main components plasma, red cells, white cells and platelets. Plasma makes up 55 percent of blood content. The other 45 percent consists mainly of red blood cells and platelets. Blood transports oxygen and nutrients around the body and removes cellular waste, among a range of other vital functions.
Red Blood Cells
Red blood cells (erythrocytes) represent 40%-45% of your blood volume. The expected number in a single drop, or microlitre, of blood is 4.5 to 6.2 million in men and 4.0 to 5.2 million in women. They are generated from your bone marrow at a rate of four to five billion per hour. They have a life-cycle of about 120 days in the body. They are shaped like slightly indented, flattened disks and transport oxygen to and from the lungs. Haemoglobin is a protein that contains iron and retains the oxygen until its destination.
Platelets are an amazing part of your blood. They are the smallest of our blood cells and literally look like small plates in their non-active form and their job is to control bleeding. Wherever a wound occurs, the blood vessel will send out a signal. Platelets receive that signal and travel to the area and transform into their “active” form, growing long tentacles to make contact with the vessel and form clusters to plug the wound until it heals.
Plasma is the liquid portion of your blood. It is yellowish in colour and is made up mostly of water, 92%, but the remaining 8 percent include carbon dioxide, glucose, hormones, proteins, mineral salts, fats, vitamins, which it transports to the different parts of the body.
White Blood Cells
Although white blood cells (leukocytes) only account for about 1% of your blood, they are very important. They are essential for good health and protection against illness and disease. Like red blood cells, they are constantly being generated from your bone marrow. They flow through the bloodstream and attack foreign bodies, like viruses and bacteria. They can even leave the bloodstream to extend the fight into tissue.
Do you know your blood type? What does it mean in real terms?
Blood groups are categorised based on the antibodies and antigens in our cells. Receiving an incompatible blood donation can lead to fatal complications.
Your blood type is inherited and everyone’s blood type falls into one of eight types. The pie chart shows the percentage of the population that has each blood type.
Type matters when it comes to blood transfusions. There are very specific ways in which blood types and blood components must be matched for a safe transfusion. Check out the tables which show which blood groups can be donated to others or received from others.
This is why it is really important you know your blood type. Your GP probably has a record in your medical file that you can ask about. Keep a record where it could be easily found if you were in an accident and needed an urgent transfusion - I have written mine in the front of my diary in red. How could you keep yours?
Blood product donation compatibility
Blood product receiving compatibility
The reason to donate is simple…it helps save lives. In fact, every two seconds of every day, someone needs blood. Since blood cannot be manufactured outside the body and has a limited shelf life, the supply must constantly be replenished by generous blood donors.
Blood donors play a vital role in the healthcare of patients in your community. 37% of the population is eligible to donate blood, yet only 5% actually do. With every blood donation, you are providing strength, hope and courage to patients and their families in your local hospitals.
There are many reasons patients need blood. A common misunderstanding about blood usage is that accident victims are the patients who use the most blood. Actually, people needing the most blood include those that are, being treated for cancer, undergoing orthopedic surgeries, undergoing cardiovascular surgeries and being treated for inherited blood disorders .
If you are able, why not check out where you can donate blood this week?