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How are organ donations possible?

Organs are a system of tissues and cells that perform specific tasks, such as ridding the body of waste, for instance, or respiration.

Our organs are designed with a capacity that is higher than necessary. A 20-year-old's heart, for instance, can pump 10 times more blood than is necessary. However, as we age, the reserve capacity of our organs diminishes - especially in our heart, lungs and kidneys.

Organ donation may occur because genetics or disease may destroy a specific organ, while the rest of our body remains generally healthy.

Other life-sustaining measures, short of organ transplantation, can be used to help diminishing organs. For instance, dialysis can help someone with damaged kidneys. However, dialysis can have a negative effect on other parts of the body. Someone on dialysis has a higher risk of cardiovascular disease because dialysis can reduce antioxidants, which normally fight toxins within the body.

Frequently, the best answer - or perhaps the only answer - is to replace a damaged organ with a healthy one. However, finding healthy organs is not so simple.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.