Health and Wellness

Your health is important to us and we want to help you maintain it. Here you will find a variety of information to help you maintain your health and have the best donation experience possible.

Blood Pressure

What Is Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against your blood vessel walls. When you have high blood pressure, the pressure in your arteries is elevated. One in four adults, about 50 million Americans, have high blood pressure. When untreated, it can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

High blo od pressure usually has no symptoms, so it is often called the "silent killer." The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to get it checked regularly. The Red Cross checks your blood pressure before every donation!

How can high blood pressure be treated?

  • Lose weight if you're overweight
  • Eat healthy meals low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks a day for men
  • Be more physically active
  • Take medicine the way your doctor tells you
  • Know what your blood pressure should be and work to keep it at that level
  • Talk to your doctor about taking medication

Who is at higher risk?

  • People with relatives that have high blood pressure
  • African Americans
  • People over the age of 35
  • Overweight people
  • People who aren't physically active
  • People who use too much salt
  • People who drink too much alcohol
  • People with diabetes, gout and kidney disease
  • Pregnant women
  • Women who take birth control pills who are overweight, had high blood pressure during pregnancy, have a family history of high blood pressure or have mild kidney disease

Preparing for Pandemic Influenza

How can I prepare?

The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping people prevent and prepare for a pandemic influenza outbreak. A variety of information and tools are available to you to help you and your family prepare, please click here to visit our pandemic flu website and learn more.

What is the Red Cross doing to prepare for a pandemic?

The Red Cross is well recognized for its leadership in pre-disaster preparedness and post-disaster relief. With a 125-year tradition of providing comfort and relief to those in need, the Red Cross has developed a Pandemic Response Plan that includes preparedness, community level response and continuity of the Red Cross Blood Services program. The Red Cross is committed to maintaining a safe and adequate blood supply during a possible pandemic flu outbreak or other national emergencies.

Stress Management

Stress management tips

Stress may contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease. The following tips can help you relieve stress and reduce your risk.

  • If possible, stop what you are doing and take a short walk
  • Get a drink of water or juice
  • Take a few slow deep breaths
  • Listen to some soothing music
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Exercise
  • Learn to accept what you can't change
  • Talk to a friend or confidant
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Learn to say no
  • Organize and prioritize

Weight Management

Weight management tips

Proper weight management can help you maintain good health and reduce the risk of premature death, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, respiratory dysfunction, gout, osteoarthritis and certain kinds of cancer. The following recommendations can help you manage your weight.

  • Increase your physical activity
  • Drink plenty of water
  • When eating out remember to control your portion size
  • Eat high-fiber foods to help you feel full
  • Make healthy choices a habit
  • Be realistic about your goals
  • Keep a food and activity journal
  • Eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruits per day
  • Prepare and eat meals and snacks at home
  • Forgive yourself if you occasionally make mistakes
  • Use a scale and measuring cup to serve your food

Body Mass Index

Body mass index is a tool that is used to gauge total body fat based on a person’s weight and height. It is one of the most accurate ways to determine when extra pounds result in a health risk. For adults over 20 years old, BMI falls into one of these categories.

BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5-24.9 Normal
25.0-29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

The relationship between fatness and BMI differs with age, gender and fitness. Two people can have the same BMI and yet have a different percentage of body fat, so BMI is only one piece of a person's health profile.

Personal Health Record

Certain immunizations or medications can cause a person to be deferred from donating blood. Most such deferrals are temporary, for a set period from the time the immunization was received or the medication taken. It is always a good idea to keep a record of your medications and immunizations for future reference.


Importance of calcium

If you are a platelet donor, you may be told to increase your calcium intake a day or two prior to your donation. The anticoagulant that is used during a platelet donation temporarily binds with the calcium in your blood to be removed from your body. Making sure you have plenty of calcium in your system will help you feel comfortable during your donation.

Your body needs calcium to perform many regular functions. Calcium is the foundation for strong, healthy bones, muscles and teeth. Blood coagulation, transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and relaxation, normal heartbeat and other functions also require small amounts of calcium.

Calcium Boosters

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • broccoli
  • pinto beans
  • dates
  • figs
  • tofu
  • spinach
  • almonds
  • calcium fortified orange juice  

Calcium Busters

  • caffeine
  • smoking cigarettes
  • alcohol

General Safety

Victims of trauma injury are often blood recipients. Most trauma injuries can be prevented by using the proper safety precautions. Below, you will find some safety tips to help you avoid different types of trauma injury.

Driver safety tips

  • Wear your seat belt
  • Keep your hands on the wheel
  • Stay alert
  • Obey the speed limit
  • Leave plenty of space between vehicles
  • Check your blind spot
  • Yield the right-of-way
  • Have your vehicle serviced regularly
  • Watch the weather
  • Never drink and drive

Bicycle safety tips

  • Obey traffic signs and signals
  • Never ride against traffic
  • Keep both hands ready to brake
  • Always wear a helmet
  • Use hand signals
  • Use a headlight at night
  • Wear reflective clothing
  • Watch for turning vehicles

Motorcycle safety tips

All of the above listed for Cars and Bikes plus


  • Wear leather or other thick, protective clothing
  • Wear gloves and over-the-ankle boots
  • Get formal training and take refresher courses

Fire safety

  • Have at least one working fire alarm
  • Never overload circuits or extension cords
  • Plan and practice your escape route

Cancer Prevention

Cancer patients are some of the highest users of blood products. Some forms of cancer are preventable. Listed below are some tips that may help you lessen the risk of developing cancer.

Sun protection

  • Cover up with shirts and pants that protect as much skin as possible
  • Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher
  • Wear a hat that shades the face, neck and ears
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block UV rays
  • Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the UV rays are strongest and limit your total sun exposure


  • Eat five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day
  • Choose whole grains rather than refined grains and sugar
  • Limit your consumption of red meats, especially those high in fat
  • Choose foods that are low in fat, calories and sugar and avoid large portions

Physical activity

  • Engage in moderate activity for 20 minutes or more on five or more days of the week
  • 45 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity on five or more days per week may further reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer

Ways to be more active:

  • Use the stairs rather than the elevator
  • Walk or bike to your destination
  • Exercise at lunch with your workmates, family or friends
  • Take a 10-minute exercise break at work to stretch or take a quick walk
  • Walk to visit co-workers instead of sending an e-mail
  • Go dancing with your spouse or friends
  • Plan active vacations rather than only driving trips
  • Wear a pedometer every day and watch your daily steps increase
  • Join a sports team
  • Use a stationary bicycle while watching TV
  • Plan your exercise routine to gradually increase the days per week and minutes per session

Alcohol consumption

  • Limit your intake to no more than two drinks per day if you are male and one drink per day if you are female

Smoking and chewing tobacco

  • Stop smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Limit your exposure to second hand smoke

High Cholesterol

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all your body’s cells. Everyone has cholesterol in their body. It is important for the production of cells and some hormones and helps with other bodily functions.

Your body makes all of the cholesterol it needs, but it also gets cholesterol from foods. If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, your body can’t get rid of it and it can build up in your arteries. Then, you could be at risk for heart disease or stroke.


There are two types of cholesterol LDL or “bad” cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol. LDL can join with fats and other substances to build up in the inner walls of your arteries. HDL helps carry the harmful cholesterol away from the arteries and helps protect you from heart attack and stroke.

How can it be treated?

  • Cut down on foods which are high in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Enjoy at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week
  • Eat more foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber
  • Lose weight if you need to
  • Ask your doctor about medicines that can reduce cholesterol

Maintain Healthy Iron Levels

To help patients in need regain their health, the Red Cross relies on healthy donors. Part of maintaining good, overall health as a blood or platelet donor is maintaining healthy iron levels. We encourage some donors, specifically young and frequent donors, to speak with their health-care provider about adding a multivitamin with iron or iron supplement to help maintain healthy iron levels. Learn more about how you can be a healthy donor.