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LIFESTYLE CORNER; The Ins and Outs of Donating Blood

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I hope you're ready now to donate blood. To find a blood center near you, call the toll-free numbers listed on page 4 for the American Association of Blood Banks, America's Blood Centers or the American Red Cross. Or visit their Web sites.

Once your appointment is set, it's time to get ready. First, make sure you're eligible to donate. Although guidelines vary with each blood center, all follow certain mandated requirements.

To be eligible to donate blood, you must be in good health and at least 17 years old (although some states permit younger people, with parental consent, to donate). Few centers have any upper age limit. Generally, donors must weight at least 110 pounds and all must pass a physical and health history examination given prior to donation.

If you have experienced any of the following, you may find yourself "temporarily deferred." This means you can't give blood that day, but you can come back once the appropriate amount of time has passed or the situation has changed:

- Have had a heart attack in the last six to 12 months.

- Have had malaria in the last three years.

- Have visited areas where malaria is found in the last year.

- Have received blood, plasma or other types of blood components in the last year.

- Have been tattooed in the last year.

- Have had cardiac surgery in the last year or have not completely recuperated from the surgery and are taking cardiovascular medicine.

- Have been exposed to someone with hepatitis within the last year.

- Are not feeling well the day of the blood donation.

- Have taken antibiotics within the last 24 to 72 hours.

- Are pregnant or have had an abortion in the last six weeks.

If you meet any of...