This Week’s Question: I'm a geezer planning to have surgery in a few months. I was wondering if I can I donate blood to myself in advance?

Yes you can. This is called "autologous" blood donation. It's done in the weeks before non-emergency surgery. The blood is stored until the operation. Autologous donation is most often employed in surgery on bones, blood vessels, the urinary tract, and the heart, when the likelihood of transfusion is high.

This form of blood donation is good for the patient, but it's beneficial to society, too.

People over the age of  69 require half of all whole blood and red blood cells transfused, according to the National Blood Data Resource Center (NBDRC). Giving blood to yourself cuts down on the demand for blood.

Typically, each donated unit of blood, referred to as whole blood, is separated into multiple components, such as red blood cells, plasma, platelets, and antihemophilic factor, for transfusion to individuals with  different needs.

With an aging population and advances in medical treatments requiring blood transfusions, the demand for blood is increasing. On any given day, an average of 38,000 units of red blood cells are needed.

Volunteers donate almost all the blood transfused in the United States Using current screening and donation procedures, a growing number of blood banks have found blood donation by seniors to be safe and practical; if you're a geezer, you probably can help the cause.

To be eligible to donate blood, a person must be in good health. In general, donors must weigh at least 110 pounds. Most blood banks have no upper age limit. Donors are screened for AIDS, hepatitis, other diseases, and other possible problems.

Adult males have about 12 pints of blood in their circulation and adult females have about nine pints. The donor's body replenishes the fluid lost from donation in about 24 hours. The red blood cells that are lost are generally replaced in a few weeks. Whole blood can be donated once every eight weeks.

What is the most common blood type?

The approximate distribution of blood types in the US population is as follows. Distribution may be different for specific racial and ethnic groups:

O Rh-positive     ---      38 percent
O Rh-negative     ---       7 percent
A Rh-positive     ---      34 percent
A Rh-negative     ---       6 percent
B Rh-positive     ---        9 percent
B Rh-negative     ---        2 percent
AB Rh-positive     ---      3 percent
AB Rh-negative     ---      1 percent

In an emergency, anyone can receive type O red blood cells, and type AB individuals can receive red blood cells of any ABO type. Therefore, people with type O blood are known as "universal donors," and those with type AB blood are known as "universal recipients."

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The Healthy Geezer column publishes each Monday on LiveScience. If you would like to ask a question, please write fred@healthygeezer.com. © 2010 by Fred Cicetti.