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What Everyone Should Know About Blood

By Kathy Hubbard

You can’t live without it, so knowing some facts about blood might keep you healthier and help you live longer. What? I’ll explain in a bit, but right now I want to tell you that Bonner General Health is having a blood drive on Friday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To schedule a time to donate go to www.inbcsaves.org or call 1-800-423-0151.

In case you didn’t know, this week is Medical Laboratory Professionals week. “This year we are focusing on the importance of blood donations as part of Lab Week,” Cherie Proctor, MLS (ASCP) BGH’s laboratory manager told me. And, to make learning more about blood a little more fun, the lab has devised a guessing game for their patients.

“We’re planning on giving our patients a few reasons for and facts about blood donations. We’ve got an empty blood bag and filled it with red hots to represent red blood cells. After we give them the information we are going to have the patients guess the number of “cells” in the bag. If they get it right, they’ll win a prize.”

Proctor shared some of the facts the lab is going to share with patients and I found a few more to add to it, so let’s get talking today about blood. We all know that it carries nutrients, oxygen, antibodies and other necessities of life to every cell and tissue in our bodies. Blood is also the means by which waste and waste byproducts are removed from cells.

The main function of blood is to act as the body’s transport system, but it also has a major role in the body’s defense against infection. Having a healthy supply of blood is important to our overall well-being. Red blood cells, white cells and platelets are made in the marrow of our bones, especially the vertebrae, ribs, hips, skull and sternum. These essential blood cells, suspended in plasma, fight infection, carry oxygen and help control bleeding.

So, what do these cells do? Red blood cells carry oxygen and remove carbon dioxide, white cells protect us from foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, platelets help blood clot and plasma carries nutrients throughout the body.

“While everyone’s blood is made up of the same basic parts, there’s actually a lot of variety in the kinds of blood that exist. There are eight different blood types and the type you have is determined by genes you inherit from your parents,” WebMD explains.

What makes your blood different from someone else’s is the unique combination of protein molecules called antigens and antibodies. The combination of those makes up your blood type. Before 1901, it was thought that all blood was the same. But an Austrian scientist named Karl Landsteiner discovered that groups are based on whether or not you have two specific antigens, A and B.

I won’t go into the combinations that make up the four groups A, B, AB and O. But I will tell you that there’s a third antigen you either have or don’t which makes up Rh positive and Rh negative.

“In order for a blood transfusion to be safe and effective, it’s important for the donor and the recipient to have blood types that go together. If you mix blood from two people with different blood types, the blood can clump, which may be fatal,” WebMD says.

So, how can knowing about your blood help you live longer? First of all, knowing your blood type can help you insure you’re getting the correct blood if you need a transfusion. Pregnant women need to know if they’re Rh positive or negative because if they don’t have the same Rh factor the woman’s body may respond as if it was allergic to the baby.

A report published in 2012 suggests that having blood type O may provide you with protection from heart disease and stroke, but the far less common AB type may increase your risk. Another study suggested that A blood type is linked to higher levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and we all know what that means. A, B and AB types may have increased risks for blood clots.

Knowing your risks allows you to make healthier decisions about your lifestyle. To help improve or even save someone else’s life, come give blood on Friday. The staff will tell you your blood type.


Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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