While most people automatically associate low sperm count in men with potential infertility, a new study has confirmed that a low sperm count could also be an indicator of overall poor health. In the largest study of its kind, experts suggest that a low sperm count can be associated with metabolic alterations, cardiovascular risk, and low bone mass.
The study included 5,177 Italian male partners gathered from couples who have been struggling with infertility. Their sperm counts were examined using laboratory tests and sperm count analysis. The study also measured the men’s level of reproductive hormones and specific metabolic parameters. In what would be a troubling result, researchers discovered that approximately half of the men showed low sperm counts.
Yet, there were some large correlations between the health of the men with low sperm counts. Those who fell into this category were 1.2 times more likely to have a higher BMI than their counterparts in the study. They also showed elevated levels of systolic blood pressure and higher cholesterol. But the hits didn’t end there. Men with lower sperm counts also bore a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Low sperm count as a harbinger of more than just infertility
The most important takeaway from the study is not that poor health resulted in a low sperm count in these men, but rather that a low sperm count itself can be an indicator of a man’s overall level of health. As a result, when treating male infertility, it is important to look at many other factors in determining the cause.
Even more, men who have a low sperm count should be treated not just for infertility, but they should also be checked for illnesses or signs of illnesses that could negatively impact their quality of life, morbidity, and mortality. The causes of poor health and male infertility could range from environmental toxins to lifestyle choices.
Take, for instance, a recent study that discovered chemicals found in a wide range of products, from toys to water bottles, could be contributing to the large drop in male sperm counts across the world. Even worse, these problems could wind up being generational.
Using mice to conduct the study, researchers exposed pregnant mice to endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in plastics and then tracked future generations. Their findings were sobering. Both the first and second generations of mice born to the exposed mother suffered from decreased fertility or hormone insufficiency.
The researchers studied one of the most common chemicals in use today, di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), which is used in many industrial and consumer products. This chemical can be found in everything from PVC piping to cosmetics, medical devices, and plastic toys. With multiple generations suffering the negative impacts of these chemicals, it stands as a stark reminder to avoid them wherever possible.
Looking beyond conception
Here at Couri & Smyth Health for Life Medical Center, we look at infertility through the lens of overall health. If there is one thing these studies confirm for us, it is that our approach is rooted in both science and outcomes. We address our patients’ infertility problems by looking at how well they adhere to the four pillars of health. We understand that if a patient has a high BMI, is at risk for diabetes, or has high cholesterol, these may be signs.
Just as a low sperm count is a sign of poor overall health, poor health can be used to diagnose a low sperm count, or a man’s inability to conceive. If you and your partner are having problems achieving pregnancy, it may be time to look at the bigger picture. For infertility treatment in Wisconsin that covers all the bases, contact us today.