“The voluntary blood donor truly gives life itself.” This is what President Richard Nixon proclaimed when he decided to officially dedicate a month to the heroes who selflessly offer a part of themselves so that others may live.

According to America’s Blood Centers, Blood transfusions in the U.S. happen about once every two seconds, and a single blood donation has the capacity to save several lives. A quarter of all blood donations go to patients suffering from cancer, and a third of African-American blood donors are compatible with individuals who have sickle cell disease.

In short, blood is a vital commodity in hospitals across the world, and its life-saving qualities are necessary for many to recover from potentially fatal conditions.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

What is National Blood Donor Month?

On December 31, 1969, President Nixon declared the first National Blood Donor Month to be January of the following year. The intent was to honor voluntary blood donors and inspire others to become new ones.

Choosing the winter season to encourage donations was no accident: Blood is in short supply during the winter months, as worsening weather conditions and tight holiday schedules limit the amount of blood hospitals receive.

How do you participate in National Blood Donor Month?

The best way to honor voluntary blood donors is to become a donor yourself. Despite the ongoing need for blood (one in three people will need a transfusion at some point during their lifetime, according to OneBlood), only 3% of Americans give blood each year. With winter being notable for its drop in blood donations, there’s no better time to do your part.

Donating blood is a virtually painless process, and you can safely give to blood banks up to six times each year. Of course, you don’t have to donate any more than you’re comfortable with — even one contribution is an exceptionally honorable and potentially life-saving act.

There are very few limitations to giving blood. You can be as young as 16 years old (with parental consent) to donate, and there’s no upper age limit. Don’t donate if you have an acute infection or are taking blood thinners. Some illnesses may bar you from giving blood. If you’re thinking of contributing, check out this checklist provided by the American Red Cross to ensure you qualify.

Donating at an authorized location is necessary. The AABB offers a tool that can help you find a viable blood donation site online. Blood drives happen frequently throughout the country, so look for one that’s convenient for you.

Health benefits come with donating

Before every donation, you’ll receive a wellness check to ensure you’re in good shape — so why not take advantage of the free checkup? This wellness check looks at:

  • Cholesterol levels
  • Iron count
  • Body temperature
  • Pulse rate
  • Blood pressure level

It’s not uncommon for donors to discover that they have a medical condition warranting follow-up with a doctor. The results of these screenings can vary frequently throughout your lifetime, so a wellness check as part of your blood donation is a cost-free way to monitor your health.

Save a life this winter, and throughout the year

The need for blood donations doesn’t wane with the seasons, but the supply of blood does. That makes National Blood Donor Month one of the most important times to become a donor. Not only can you help others this way, but you can also help yourself thanks to the added health benefits included with donating.

Blood is a substance that can’t be manufactured by artificial means. It comes from one place and one place only: the hearts of men and women just like you.