Male fertility: Bad habits that can harm men's reproductive health | Health - Hindustan Times

Male fertility tips: Correct these bad habits that can harm a man's sperm count and reproductive health

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Jun 08, 2022 02:01 PM IST

Attention men! If you want to improve your sperm count and boost your fertility, here are a few modifications, recommended by doctors, that you need to do in your lifestyle so as to not harm your reproductive health.

If you're in your mid-thirties and living a carefree lifestyle with little regard for your health, your odds of fathering a child are likely to be dwindling as researchers believe that once a male approaches the age of 40, his reproductive capacities begin to deteriorate. Males play an intrinsic role in a couple’s ability to conceive, which is contrary to what has been believed for long about fertility wherein the society has disproportionately blamed females when they are unable to bear a child. 

Male fertility tips: Correct these bad habits that can harm a man's sperm count and reproductive health (Ketut Subiyanto)
Male fertility tips: Correct these bad habits that can harm a man's sperm count and reproductive health (Ketut Subiyanto)

Research has now indicated that almost 50% of the cases of infertility in couples can be traced to health conditions in the male partner. A number of factors can affect male reproductive health and while some of these can be congenital, that is, defects present from the time of birth, a number of these are acquired habits in their life.

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In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Gunjan Sabherwal, Fertility Expert at Gurgaon's Nova Southend IVF and Fertility, shared, “Normal sperm counts have decreased in the last decades with 1 out of 8 couples facing pregnancy complications, male infertility being the reason in 40% of these cases. Dietary intake, obesity, lack of adequate sleep, psychological stress, radiation from laptops and mobile phones, environmental and occupational pressures and recreational and prescription substances like cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, negatively impact fertility rates. Actionable measures need to be taken to address these risks by restructuring your everyday activities and bringing about positive, healthy changes to improve your fertility rates and enjoy a well-balanced, invigorating lifestyle.”

Dr Sweta Patel, Senior IVF Specialist at Surat's Crysta IVF - Female First Hospital, highlighted some pointers for soon-to-be dads that will be useful in the long term:

1. Sedentary behaviour - A healthy lifestyle necessitates regular exercise. To stay fit and active, you must stick to a regular workout routine. Exercising for 30 minutes five days a week will help you improve your stamina, immunity, healing abilities, and overall fertility.

2. Self-medication - Always get medical advice before using any medicine. Certain drugs might have an impact on your fertility. If you're taking medication, discuss the adverse effects with your doctor. To gain muscular growth and for bodybuilding, some people turn to steroid use. This is incredibly harmful to your health.

3. Unhealthy food - If you want to keep your fertility levels good, it's best to give up the practice of eating fast food too frequently. According to a recent study, males who ate processed meat had a much lower number of "normal" shaped sperm cells than those who ate less.

4. Obesity - Obesity has a negative impact on a man's reproductive capacity. Both overweight and underweight men can experience fertility issues. Weight problems affect not just sperm count but also the physical and molecular structure of germ cells in the testes and, eventually, mature sperm.

5. Unsafe sex - Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the leading cause of infertility that can be avoided. Guess which unhealthy habit increases the chances of contracting an STD? Having sex that isn't safe. An STD can harm your reproductive health in a variety of ways, from pelvic inflammatory disease to obstructed fallopian tubes, so it's best to be cautious than sorry.

Echoing the same, Dr Kshitiz Murdia, CEO and Co-Founder of Indira IVF, listed the bad habits that can harm men's reproductive health:

1. Smoking and tobacco consumption - Tobacco ingestion and smoking introduces in the body harmful substances that can impair one’s fertility. It impacts the number of sperms present, reduces their movement, as well as their shape. These factors directly hamper the ability and count of sperms that can fertilise an egg. Smoking can also cause sperm DNA fragmentation that results in bad embryo quality hence, lowering fertilisation rate, preimplantation development of the embryo, genetic anomalies in the embryo, and reduced live births. Furthermore, such males are also more likely to have erectile dysfunction.

2. Alcohol consumption - Alcohol consumption has been observed to have a direct co-relation with the production of several sex hormones by impacting glands associated with the reproductive system, that is, testes, hypothalamus, and anterior pituitary gland. It lowers levels of testosterone, leuteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) whereas increasing oestrogen. All these factors decreases sperm production and may even lead to impotence.

3. Heated objects - The scrotum comprising testes in males in placed in such a way in the anatomy that it remains 2-3˚C lower than the normal body temperature. This is because the production of sperms requires an environment that is cooler than the rest of the body. Exposure of scrotum to heated objects such as laptops can interfere with sperm production thus, lowering their numbers.

4. Lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating - The lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating can make the human body breeding ground for a number of health complications such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, and high cholesterol. These conditions have been found to further impact male fertility. Regular low- to medium-impact exercises in conjunction with a balanced nutritious diet does not only help improve fertility but also keep a number of diseases at bay.

5. Unsafe sex practices - Practising unsafe sex can harbour sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in males that impact their reproductive health. STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea impact the quality and movement of sperms, as well as cause epididymitis or the inflammation of the epididymis which is responsible for storing and transporting sperm. Syphilis, genital herpes, HIV and hepatitis B are other STIs that harm the male reproductive system and can also go on to cause more health complications. Incorporating safe sex habits are imperative; this can be the usage of barrier protection such as condoms, dental dams and gloves, keeping a check on the number of sexual partners and their health, and getting tested for STIs on a regular basis and between partners.

According to Dr Gunjan Gupta and Dr Garima Sharma, fertility experts from Gunjan IVF World, the 5 bad habits that can harm a man’s reproductive health include:

1. Smoking and Drinking problem - Tobacco smoking leads to reduced semen quality. It also leads to DNA damage in sperm. Drinking alcohol can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction and decrease sperm production.

2. Obesity - Obese men, have lower semen quality than men that are in the normal BMI range. Overweight men have increased amounts of DNA damage in their sperm, which negatively impact fertility.

3. Stress - Stress can lead to hormonal changes such as testosterone imbalance, which can impact male fertility directly.

4. Drug use - Anabolic steroids taken to stimulate muscle strength and growth can cause the testicles to shrink and sperm production to decrease. Use of cocaine or marijuana may temporarily reduce the number and quality of your sperm as well.

5. Sedentary Lifestyle - A sedentary lifestyle that lacks physical activity can impact your sperm quality and quantity, stamina, and immunity. This can have an adverse effect on overall fertility.

While these are some bad habits that can harm male reproductive health, being complacent about one’s general health is also as adverse. One must go for regular health check-ups that can help flag health conditions early on so timely medical intervention can take place.

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