New research suggests donating blood could extend your life

Courtny Gerrish

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New research suggests donating blood could extend your life

CREATED Nov. 27, 2013 - UPDATED: Nov. 27, 2013

MILWAUKEE - Donating blood saves lives, but what if it could save your own? 

At the very least it makes you feel good about helping others.  At the most, it could buy you some years.  One local hero believes it has something to do with his 90 years young! 
Tom Sitter tells a lot of stories about his army days and World War II.  His family knows most of them by heart including why Tom started giving blood.  A donation got him a weekend pass.  "To go into Kansas City or Topeka. It worked out alright despite all the carousing we did."
Tom started donating in the early 1940's and hasn't missed a beat since.  "I've often thought about why I've been so lucky to be in such good health."  Tom is 90 years young, and one of his secrets might be all the blood he's donated.  Tom started keeping track after he got out of the service.  He's now closing in on 200 pints.  Let's convert that to a measurement we all know, like gallons. Tom has donated almost 25 gallons of blood.
More and more research suggests donating blood can reduce the risk of heart attacks, even cancer. It all has to do with the iron in our bodies. "We lose almost a hundred times more iron in one blood donation than we normally take in, in a day," Dr. Jerry Gottschall pointed out.  He's the Senior Medical Director at the BloodCenter of Wisconsin.  He said there are some studies that support a link between high iron levels and health problems. "You have what we call heart disease from the development of these cholesterol plaques that block up and plug our blood vessels."
But the best benefit might be it makes you feel good.  The BoodCenter serves 56 hospitals across the state.  Less than an hour of your time, can help up to three people. 
Tom's years of giving might add another regular donor to the mix. his daughter.  "I think it's wonderful and makes me feel guilty I haven't done it enough, and I think I'm going to start doing it 'cause I like his theory." 
And her father isn't finished donating yet.  "I plan to keep giving 'til they squeeze me dry."  
Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood meaning places like The BloodCenter of Wisconsin always need new donors.  And here's some extra incentive. You burn 650 calories each time you donate.