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Heart. 2019 Mar 14. pii: heartjnl-2018-314138. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2018-314138. [Epub ahead of print]

Cardiovascular risk in 159 934 frequent blood donors while addressing the healthy donor effect.

Author information

Department of Donor Medicine Research - Donor Studies, Sanquin Research, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Internal Medicine, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Public Health, Academic Medical Center Amsterdam UMC - Location AMC, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department for Health Evidence, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, Scientific Center for Quality of Healthcare, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



To investigate whether regular blood donation decreases cardiovascular risk.


All 159 934 Dutch whole-blood donors with an active donation career of at least 10 years were categorised into sex-specific donation tertiles based on the number of donations during this 10-year qualification period. Cardiovascular endpoints were based on hospital discharge diagnoses and death certificates from Dutch Hospital Data and Statistics Netherlands and occurring after the 10-year qualification period. Cox regression was used to estimate the age-adjusted and starting year-adjusted hazard rate ratio (HRR).


Female high-frequency blood donors had a reduced cardiovascular morbidity (HRR=0.91, 95% CI 0.85 to 0.98) compared with low-frequency blood donors. No effect was observed in men (HRR=1.00, 95% CI 0.95 to 1.05). To rule out a residual healthy donor effect (HDE), additional sensitivity analyses using a 5-year qualification period were conducted. The results supported the absence of a residual HDE.


This study showed a protective effect of long-term, high-frequency blood donation against cardiovascular disease. This effect was only observed in women and not in men.


blood donors; cardiac risk factors and prevention; cardiovascular diseases; epidemiology; translational cardiovascular medicine

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.

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