Lifestyle factors affecting male fertility
06 Dec 2021
Fertility in men relies on producing as many sperm as possible and on these sperm being healthy in terms of structure and motility.
I won’t differentiate between these three aspects of sperm related fertility but will write more generally about harmful and helpful factors that can affect any or all of these things.
Around 10% of couples find it difficult or impossible to conceive a pregnancy. In nearly half of these cases, the problem lies with the man’s fertility.
- Increasing age is associated with declining fertility in men as well as women. Whilst age cannot be modified, male fertility can be affected by several lifestyle factors that can be readily changed.
- Overweight men have lower sperm counts. The frequency of significantly low sperm count is twice as high in severely obese men as it is in men in the normal weight range.
- Substance misuse is bad news. Sperm production and motility are greatly reduced both by smoking and by heavy use of alcohol. Taking anabolic steroids is associated with a big increase in risk of infertility.
- Feeling stressed and experiencing stressful life events impair healthy sperm production.
- Poor sleep can be harmful to sperm production.
- Poor diet is a contributor to poor sperm production. The closer men followed a full Mediterranean diet in one study, the better their sperm health. Eating processed red meat impairs sperm production, whilst eating fish has been found to improve it.
- Physical inactivity is associated with impaired sperm production.
Positive lifestyle steps to improve fertility
Many of these will be obvious from the factors associated with impaired fertility as described above:
- Attention to sleep hygiene could well be important.
- Stress management will be advised for stressed men.
- Smoking, high alcohol consumption and anabolic steroid use are all discouraged.
- Regular physical activity should be pursued.
- Weight management is important, not just by eating less, but also by eating a healthy diet with less red meat and more fibre, fruit and vegetables.
This is a very brief overview. Every man and indeed every couple with fertility issues is likely to have his/their own pattern of lifestyle factors that will benefit from a detailed analysis and action plan. The TEMPLE VITALITY LIFESTYLE PROGRAMME can provide this.