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Does Giving Blood Lower Cholesterol?

By Kathryn Gilhuly ; Updated August 14, 2017

Changes in your diet and lifestyle prove the most effective method of lowering cholesterol. But some evidence exists that donating blood could also reduce your numbers. Science does not support donating blood as a primary means of reducing cholesterol, but healthy adults help others by giving blood.

Link Between Donating Blood and Lowering Cholesterol

The “iron hypothesis,” proposed by a cardiology professor at the University of Kansas, postulated that iron lost by women during menstruation helped protect them against cholesterol buildup. David G. Meyers wanted to find out if men who donated blood could obtain similar benefits. He found that men who donated blood frequently reduced their risk of heart disease by 30 percent compared to infrequent donors, according to a report published in “Transfusion” in June 2002. Meyers’ study examined the health of 3,000 men and post-menopausal women.

Eligibility Requirements for Donating Blood

If you want to put the “iron hypothesis” to a personal test, you can donate whole blood as frequently as every 56 days, according to the American Red Cross. Healthy people who weigh more than 110 lbs and who are 17 or older can donate blood. Some types of bacterial infections and clotting disorders may make you ineligible to donate blood. You cannot donate blood if your blood pressure measures higher than 180/100 or lower than 80/50. Blood transfusions and some cancers may make you ineligible. Other disqualifying conditions include Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, hepatitis caused by a virus, HIV, intravenous drug use and untreated syphilis.

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Diet and Lifestyle

The American Heart Association and other health organizations do not list donating blood as a means of lowering cholesterol and protecting yourself against heart disease. If you choose to give blood, you should not abandon other methods recommended for improving heart health. MayoClinic.com advocates that you limit the amount of cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat in your diet. Consume as little sugar as possible, add fiber to your diet and exercise regularly. If you smoke, you should stop.

Recommendations

To reduce cholesterol in your daily diet to 200 mg to 300 mg, as recommended by MayoClinic.com, don’t eat organ meats and eat no more than 1 egg. You can reduce saturated fat to between 16 g and 22 g daily by choosing lean sources of protein and keeping portions small. A 3 ½ oz. portion of skinless chicken contains 1 g of saturated fat, but a half-pound hamburger contains 16 gL. You can reduce trans fat to 2 g daily by using olive oil instead of margarine or shortening as a cooking oil. You can reduce your sugar consumption by avoiding commercial baked goods -- also a source of trans fat – and sugary soft drinks.

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