Give Blood, Reduce Iron Levels and Heart Attack Risk
In his book, “The 4-Hour Body”, Tim Ferriss proposes an intriguing heart attack prevention measure. Post-menopausal (but not pre-menopausal) women have a similar incidence of heart attack as men. Menstruation reduces a woman’s blood iron level.
Giving a pint of blood every eight weeks can approximately mimic the loss of iron due to menstruation which can quite possibly increase the donor’s longevity. Some evidence lies with The New England Centenarian Study, conducted by Boston University’s School of Medicine, which is the world’s largest and most comprehensive ongoing study of “centenarians” (people who live past 100 years). According to Dr. Tom Perls, who is the director of the study, “Iron is the critical factor in our cells’ ability to produce those nasty molecules called free radicals that play an important role in aging…It may be as simple as having less iron in your body”. Furthermore, high iron stores have been correlated to an increased number of heart attacks in otherwise symptom-free males.
Also, there is ample evidence that iron reduction through bloodletting can improve insulin sensitivity. This is a desirable result because low insulin sensitivity can lead to a variety of health problems. The body will try to compensate for having a low sensitivity to insulin by producing more insulin. However, a high level of circulating insulin (hyperinsulinemia) is associated with damage to blood vessels, high blood pressure, heart disease and heart failure, obesity, osteoporosis and even cancer. All of the aforementioned are directly related to longevity.
Although there is no consensus yet in the medical community, evidence seems to support a much greater upside to giving blood than the almost non-existent downside. Also, you will be acting as a good citizen to boot. Find out where you can donate blood here.