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Blood donors do not have fewer heart attacks

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. Animal experiments have shown that an iron overload can promote atherosclerosis. Finnish researchers have also found an association between a high blood level of iron and cardiovascular disease. Iron is a powerful free radical initiator and is likely to promote lipid peroxidation. Researchers have speculated that the relatively low iron levels found in premenopausal women account for their near immunity to heart disease as compared to men and postmenopausal women. Finnish researchers recently reported that male blood donors have a substantially lower risk of having a heart attack than do non-donors. It is estimated that donating blood just once a year can reduce the iron stores in men by half.

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School now report that male blood donors do not have fewer heart attacks than non-donors. Their study involved 38,244 male health professionals who were asked about their lifetime history of blood donations in 1992. During four years of follow-up there were 328 non-fatal heart attacks and 131 coronary deaths in the group. There was no significant difference in the incidence of heart attacks or cardiac deaths among the men who had donated blood 30 or more times during their life and those who had never donated. The researches conclude that their study does not support the hypothesis that reduced iron stores lower the risk of coronary heart disease.
Ascherio, Alberto, et al. Blood donations and risk of coronary heart disease in men. Circulation, Vol. 103, January 2/9, 2001, pp. 52-57 [38 references]

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