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Monday, June 17, 2024

Healthy blood The lifeline of humanity

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Healthy blood is essential to the survival of every human being, regardless of race, culture, background or economic status.

What is it?

This sticky red fluid circulates in our veins and arteries, acting as the body’s transport system and a defense against infection.

Blood also helps the body repair itself by sealing damaged blood vessels and healing injuries with clots. The average-size adult has about 10 pints of blood.

What is in it?

The basic contents of blood include red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body; white blood cells, which help the body fight and prevent infections; platelets, which allow blood to clot and plasma, the fluid part of blood that carries substances such as proteins, fats, glucose and salts.

Blood and African-Americans

Like all other Americans, many African-Americans deal with medical situations that require blood transfusions, or the transfer of fresh blood from donors to patients.

However, there are medical challenges that are more prevalent in the African-American community. These problems include Sickle Cell Disease, which can cause anemia, strokes or damage to the lungs and kidneys; high rates of lupus (a disease that destroys the immune system and affects one in every 250 Black women) and a limited number of available donors for bone marrow transplants.

Experts say that now, more than ever, African-American blood donors are needed to help address these challenges.

“African-Americans have subtle differences in red blood cell proteins, making it more appropriate for a donation to come from someone with a similar ethnic background,” said Dr. Michael F. DeBaun, a professor at the Washington University School of Medicine and a nationally recognized researcher of blood’s impact on the health of African-Americans.

It is possible for an African-American patient to match his/her blood type with a donor from any racial or ethnic group. A match, however, is more likely to come from a relative or a donor with the same ethnic and racial background.

“Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood,” said Gail McGovern, president of the American Red Cross, “But demand for blood transfusions is growing faster than available blood donors.”

McGovern noted that blood donation is a safe and simple process that involves registration and a quick medical checkup, the actual donation procedure and refreshments for the donor. The entire process usually takes no more than an hour.

“We encourage all Americans to donate,” McGovern said. “Blood cannot be manufactured, it can only come from generous donors.”

For more information about the importance of blood to your health and blood donation, visit ww.givelife2.org.

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