Dear Doctor: I am 75 years old and donate blood whenever they accept me. However, I often become anemic and am rejected. I eat a spinach salad every day and fish, chicken or meat, plus vegetables, for dinner. I have been taking double doses of iron supplements, but I am still anemic. How worried should I be?
Dear reader: First of all, thank you for being a regular blood donor. Every day, thousands of people need blood or platelets. They cannot be manufactured and can only come from donors, so volunteers like you are saving lives. According to the Red Cross, the blood and blood products from each donation have the potential to save three lives.
In order to protect both the donor and the recipient, each donation is screened for a series of disease markers. The blood is also tested for anemia. Anemia occurs when someone does not have enough hemoglobin to transport adequate amounts of oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. Hemoglobin is the protein that allows oxygen to move from the lungs to the blood and then from the blood to the tissues.
Mild cases of anemia can be asymptomatic. In fact, becoming a blood donor is a common way for people to become aware of their condition. People with moderate or severe anemia can experience fatigue, shortness of breath even during light exertion, headaches and pale skin, and can easily get cold. Without enough red blood cells for optimal health, anemic people are dismissed as potential blood donors.