Woman giving blood
Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well Ohio: Jan./Feb. 2022

Blood centers across the country need your help now, and a physician shares lifestyle adjustments that can have a long-term positive impact on your heart. 

Gift of Life
Inventory is low at blood centers across the country. If you’re able to donate, your generosity will make a difference in many lives.  

According to the American Red Cross, one blood donation can save up to three people’s lives, and someone in the United States needs a blood product every two seconds.

“Probably every single person knows someone who has had a transfusion, whether a cancer patient going through chemotherapy or someone who was victim of a trauma or car accident,” says Adam McGonigle, director of laboratory services at Adena Health System in Chillicothe.

Blood product availability has always been an issue, but the pandemic has created new barriers to donation, and McGonigle says it is now at a “panic level,” meaning there is dwindling inventory at centers with some having only a day’s worth of blood on hand at times. Event cancellations, staffing challenges at donation centers and heightened demand are stressing the system. Less than 38 percent of people can give blood or platelets, and blood donation is a completely voluntary process.

“It’s a fragile system … It’s fully run off of people’s kindness and capability to donate,” McGonigle says.

Those with the blood type O Negative are universal donors in high demand because their blood can be used by anyone, but those of any blood type who can donate will make a marked impact on many people’s lives. If you can’t donate blood, you can give your time. Volunteers are needed to transport blood from donation centers to healthcare facilities, and centers need help with blood drives.

“There are instances where we could get donations, but there aren’t the caregivers there to help do it,” McGonigle says, “so consider volunteering for your local blood center.”


Take Heart
Aside from the usual advice we hear, these lifestyle adjustments can make a long-term impact on your ticker. 

Stop smoking. Stay active. Get your rest. We know there are certain habits like exercising and getting a good night’s sleep that improve overall health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But did you know that social isolation, stress and eating too quickly can also have a negative cumulative effect?

“By making small, incremental changes you can make an enormous impact on your longevity and quality of life,” says Dr. Leslie Cho, director of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Cardiovascular Center.

Here are three ways to make a positive, long-term impact on your heart health.

Stay Connected. There is such a thing as a lonely heart. “Depression and social isolation can increase the risk of heart attack by 40 to 50 percent, and there are multiple studies that assess loneliness as a risk factor for heart attack and mortality,” Cho says. Specifically, research published in Heart Journal highlights these risk factors. Especially amid the pandemic, more of us have hunkered down at home and avoided social activities. Set aside time to call a friend or family member. Or connect with a work colleague by phone rather than text or email. Take advantage of tech tools like video chat. 

Stress Less. A packed schedule can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and further complicates outcomes of those who have stable coronary heart disease, according to a November 2021 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. So, how do you take a load off and help your heart in the long run? Cho suggests a free app called Breathe2Relax, which offers one-minute calming sessions. “Most people breathe 16 to 20 times per minute, and the app teaches you to breathe 10 times per minute to calm you down,” she says. “This slows down your heart rate and really lowers your blood pressure, and it’s a way to be more intentional in your day.”

Eat Slowly. “Most Americans eat super-fast,” Cho says. Also, most Americans gain one pound per year starting at age 30. “That’s an extra 20 pounds by age 50,” she points out. Try eating more slowly and tasting every bite. “Your stomach then has time to send information to your brain that you are full,” she says. “You’ll enjoy your food and actually eat much less.” Even a five-pound weight gain can increase your risk for diabetes and heart issues.