Donating blood may be good for men's hearts Getting rid of iron may cut risk of disease


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For middle-aged men struggling to lose weight or get enough exercise to reduce their risk of heart disease, there could be a far easier alternative:

Just donate an occasional pint of blood to get rid of iron in the body.

That possibility is being held out in a new study led by a researcher at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

He found that nonsmoking men who had donated blood in the previous three years were 30 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, undergo heart surgery or require heart medications.

Those results, cautioned physician David Meyers, do not prove that donating blood reduces the risk of heart disease. But they support the hypothesis that iron stored in the body contributes to hardening of the arteries.

And if further research bears out the findings, blood donation could become a regular part of the prescription for a healthier heart.

Meyers' study was published last week in the British journal Heart.

Finnish researchers reported in March in the British Medical Journal that among 2,682 middle-aged men followed for about 5 1/2 years, the risk of heart attack was 86 percent lower among blood donors.

Meyers' study found no benefit from donations for women. Regular loss of iron-rich blood leaves menstruating women with half the bodily iron stores of men. This may account for the lower incidence of heart disease among younger women -- and for the rise in heart disease in women after menopause.

Pub Date: 9/02/97

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