Blood - Our Liquid Gold

Sep 29, 2021

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Last week I had to provide a couple vials of blood for some health tests. It was quick and relatively painless as the lab tech was quite skilled. The needle was quite a bit thicker than the type we use for COVID-19 or influenza vaccines. The needles are so small for injections often there is no blood post-injection at all. Usually, I ask if the person being vaccinated if they want the band-aid as a souvenir. Us pharmacists have an amazing sense of humor.

As I provided my blood sample and watched the first and then second vial had me quizzing myself, what is in that blood and how much is left in me. Blood is an extremely important fluid that is vital for life and for the proper functioning of our bodies. The average adult has approximately five litres of blood.

Blood is an organ system acting as a transportation mechanism, carrying nutrients, antibodies, hormones, and oxygen to various organs via our blood vessels. The heart pumps blood through these vessels, starting with arteries, then the smaller arterioles. Arterioles then go to capillaries to make the delivery to the tissues, and then pick up waste products for the journey back.

The blood is composed of specialized blood cells produced in the bone marrow, the soft spongy part of the inner bone. Stem cells, located in the marrow, are the parent cells from which blood cells are produced. These cells make up a little less than half of blood (45%), which are classified as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Blood's red coloring comes from a protein complex as a part of the red blood cells called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin plays an essential role in proper body function by transporting oxygen obtained from the lungs to all organs of the body. This is an extremely important function and red blood cells take up to 120 days to form. The process requires Vitamin B12, so take if your physician suggests it. Without enough healthy red blood cells taking oxygen around in your body you might feel continuously fatigued. A trial of Vitamin B12 could help over time. Hemoglobin also carries iron. A basic blood test will measure hemoglobin, which can help determine anemias or iron deficiencies.

White blood cells are a simpler name for leukocytes, found in your immune system. They protect the body against infections from virus, bacteria, fungus, and other foreign intruders. White blood cells are broken down into three types. Lymphocytes create antibodies that battle infections. Granulocytes help treat tissue inflammation. The third type of white blood cell, monocytes absorb abnormal cells and waste from dying cells.

Finally, platelets control all types of internal and external bleeding. They are what makes blood clot or form a scab on an exterior wound. I am sure thankful for platelets, after having to deal with 30 plus years of nosebleeds. As a positive, I think it made me a lot more comfortable seeing blood at work or at the lab or when putting a "plug" in my kid's noses.

Plasma makes up the largest part of your blood at approximately 55%. When separated from the rest of the blood, plasma is a light-yellow liquid. Plasma contains 90% water, with the rest being water, salt, and enzymes. Plasma's key role is to take nutrients, hormones, and proteins to the parts of the body that need it. Cells also put their waste products into the plasma. The plasma then helps remove this waste from the body. Blood plasma also carries all parts of the blood through your circulatory system.

Aside from blood's extremely important functions for life, it is also likely a crucial diagnostic tool for helping identify illness, toxicity from an outside source and infection. From a diabetic monitoring their glucose levels to a specialist finding a genetic marker for a hereditary disease it all begins with the blood. If you have the opportunity, make sure you consider donating your blood as well, as it is one of the few things in today's world which cannot be produced in a lab.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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