Low sperm count can signify more than just fertility problems — the amount of semen a man produces could be a marker of his general health. A new study has found that men who produce less sperm are are more likely to be affected by other health issues, including lower bone mass, increased cardiovascular risk and metabolic issues.
The study analyzed 5,177 male partners in couples struggling with fertility issues, all from Italy. Half of those had low sperm counts, defined as less than 39 million per ejaculate. The men with lower sperm counts were 1.2 times more likely than men with normal ones to have greater body fat, higher blood pressure, higher “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol. They were also more likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome (having three or more metabolic risk factors that increase the chance of diabetes, heart disease and stroke) and 12 times more likely to have low testosterone levels.
“Our study clearly shows that low sperm count by itself is associated with metabolic alterations, cardiovascular risk and low bone mass,” lead investigator of the study, Alberto Ferlin, M.D., Ph.D., explained in a press release. “Infertile men are likely to have important coexisting health problems or risk factors that can impair quality of life and shorten their lives.”
Keep in mind: Plenty of men with lower sperm counts didn’t suffer from any of these health conditions. So it’s clearly not a given that everyone who has a lower sperm count will develop any of these health conditions in their entire lifetime. They are just more likely to.
However, Ferlin does point out that having a “fertility evaluation” can be beneficial for assessing health and preventing disease. “Men of couples having difficulties achieving pregnancy should be correctly diagnosed and followed up by their fertility specialists and primary care doctor because they could have an increased chance of morbidity and mortality,” he said.
What is concerning, however, is other recent research has determined that sperm count in men residing in developed countries has dropped by a whopping 50 percent over the past 40 years. While researchers in the study did not determine the cause, they suggested sperm count drop has been previously linked to factors ranging from exposure to chemicals and pesticides to lifestyle choices, including smoking, obesity and stress.
If you are concerned about your sperm count, there are nutritional and lifestyle changes you can implement to try to improve it — and they will likely improve your overall health as well. Here are 10 steps you can take to increase your sperm count.
What Do YOU Think?
Does the link between low sperm count and men’s health issues surprise you? Why do you think sperm counts are dropping in developed countries? Do you think more research needs to be conducted in this area?