The American Red Cross values the generosity of the millions of individuals who donate life-saving blood each year. By using the Red Cross Blood Donor App or the online Blood Donor Portal, donors may securely view their donation data including pulse, blood pressure, and hemoglobin, which are important indicators of health .
Over 46% of US adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension; and many of them are unaware of their medical condition (1). Hypertension may occur alone or with other medical conditions. Most of the time, there is no clear-cut reason for adult-onset hypertension and this form is called primary or essential hypertension; this occurs in about 10% of cases. Secondary hypertension occurs and is a result of another medical condition or a medication. Factors contributing to hypertension include smoking, high alcohol intake, being overweight, dietary factors, lack of adequate exercise, and family history or genetics. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to many serious health conditions including stroke, kidney failure, and heart failure.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is expressed with two numbers. The first, higher number (systolic pressure) is the pressure in arteries as the heart ejects blood into them. The second, lower number (diastolic pressure) is the arterial pressure between ejections. Healthy blood pressure for most adults is around 120/80 mmHg, but very athletic donors may have a lower blood pressure.
A donor’s blood pressure is measured prior to each attempted donation. In July, 2023, the Red Cross began proactively notifying blood donors with two blood pressure readings of 140/90 mmHg or higher in the past 18 months. This information can be easily seen and tracked in the blood donor app; however, Red Cross donors will also receive a letter advising them to meet with their physician or other health care provider to confirm the presence of hypertension and formulate a plan for a heart-healthy lifestyle, with medication if needed. This data can help donors make better decisions about their health. Resource information is provided for donors without an established care provider (via www.findhelp.org). Donors who take blood pressure medications may continue to donate as long as they meet federal regulations for blood pressure (not above 180/100 mmHg) (2) and all other eligibility criteria.
We at the Red Cross value our donors’ generosity and aspire to support them in ways such as sharing health information to allow them and their health care providers to make the wisest health choices. If you are interested in becoming a blood donor, please visit redcrossblood.org and sign up today.
- Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS, et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 Sep 9];71(19):e127-e248. Available from: https://www.jacc.org/doi/10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.006
- Blood pressure, 21 C.F.R. Sect. 630.10(f)(2) (2023).