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The Importance of Blood and Blood Cells

Updated on June 16, 2009
The Heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body.
The Heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body.

Typically, the body contains around 10 pints of blood, which is circulated throughout the body by the heart.

In an average adult, all 10 pints are circulated one time per minute, however during exercise this can increase to up to 4 times per minute.

What Does Blood Do?

However, transporting nutrients is not the bloods only task. It is also used to remove waste products, such as carbon dioxide, from the body.

For example, blood helps to bring a number of different types of toxins to the kidney and liver, so that they can be processed. Blood also plays a pivotal role in fighting infection, helps carry hormones throughout the body, and acts as a sort of thermostat to help regulate temperature.

The Different Types of Blood Cells

About half of all a humans blood consists of blood cells, with the other half consisting of plasma. There are three categories of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

The red blood cells, which are the most common type of blood cell, are used to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. These types of blood cells look much like a doughnut and contain hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron that is able to quickly and easily bind with oxygen when there is a high concentration, such as in the lungs, and release oxygen when there is a low concentration, like is found in the other areas of the body. In this manner, the red blood cells absord oxygen in the lungs and transport it to other parts of the body.

The body's white blood cells can be divided into several categories, but they all are used to fight disease and infection. Some will actively seek out and attempt to surround bacteria, while others release antibodies to help remove and prevent specific types of disease, such as the measles. The system is not always perfect though, because in some cases, the white blood cells will attack their own body. This is referred to as an autoimmune disease,

Platelets are the smallest type of blood cell and help produce blood clots. Within seconds after a cut, the platelets kick into action to form a sort of plug to prevent blood loss.

Plasma is a very fluid like and is basically everything that is left over in the blood stream, once you remove the white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. It consists of 95% water and has a salt content that is similar to that of salt water.

Blood Tests

Since blood plays such an important role in every organ and appendage in the body, if there is a problem or disease, it can often be seen by doing a blood test.

One of the most common types of blood tests is the complete blood count test, which is used to calculate the number of the different kinds of blood cells in a specific volume of blood. The cells are then examined to see if they contain and any abnormalities. Since many diseases have a known effect on the chemical content of the blood, these types of test can be a powerful indicator of disease and illness.

Anemia and the Elderly

One of the most common types of blood disorders found in seniors and older adults is anemia, which is a type of vitamin deficiency. While anemia is much more common among seniors, it is not a normal part of aging.

A common misconception is that anemia is usually caused by low iron content, so many seniors who feel tired take iron supplements. While low iron content can cause anemia, among older adults, anemia is more likely to be caused by slow intestinal bleeding.

While iron deficiency is one of the most common types of anemias, there are actually three that consistently effect the elderly and older adults.


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