Smoking cigarettes. Not getting enough sleep. Drinking too much alcohol. Being overweight. These lifestyle choices may not seem significant when it comes to procreating, but they can affect male fertility and may eventually cause problems. We previously discussed how age plays a role—but unlike age, certain lifestyle choices can be altered and even boost fertility for men if changes are made.
“There is a growing body of solid scientific data that correlates obesity, poor nutritional status, lack of exercise, smoking and marijuana usage … with decreased semen parameters such as sperm concentration, motility and morphology,” Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, a board-certiﬁed urologist and male infertility specialist, told CNN.
Not leading an overall healthy lifestyle can affect more than just a man’s ability to conceive. It can also affect the well-being of the baby or child in the future, Bar-Chama explained.
Although there are many lifestyle factors that negatively affect male fertility, here are some that can be improved or reversed with intervention.
Testosterone and steroids.
There is a standard for men in the Western world to be muscular and lean—the same way beauty standards exist for women, as well. The stereotype of the “macho man” can do more harm than good, as it is based on artificial looks, rather than wellness.
Drugs like testosterone and anabolic steroids, which are often taken by men to gain muscle, are detrimental to male fertility because they interfere “with the hormone signals that are needed to produce sperm.” However, it is possible for sperm production to recover, 3-12 months after use of these drugs has stopped.
Poor eating habits linked to obesity can also affect sperm health. Although more research is needed, a 2016 report found that having a healthy diet is a “safe way to improve at least one measure of semen quality.”
“Certain diets, including those high in fat and animal protein, have been shown to hurt sperm health. High-sugar diets can lead to diabetes, a condition that is bad for sperm health and erections,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.
A recently published study found that the quality of semen improved in men who followed a Mediterranean diet and did regular physical activity.
Bad sleeping habits.
Not getting the right amount of sleep doesn’t bode well for sperm health. Too much or too little can affect male fertility, although the exact details of why are still not fully understood by scientists.
A study looking into the effects of sleep duration and bedtime on sperm health found “short and long sleep durations and later bedtime can reduce sperm count, survival, and motility, partly through increasing (antisperm antibody) production.” Antisperm antibodies can kill sperm and/or make it harder for it to fertilize an egg.
“The reasons could be psychological as sleep-deprived men suffer more stress and that can have an impact on fertility,” Professor Hans Jakob Ingerslev, who authored a different study, told The Independent.
The latter found that men who went to bed earlier (before 10:30 p.m.) for a certain amount of time (roughly 7 to 8 hours) reported higher rates of normal semen quality.
Consult your doctor.
Despite some of the harm lifestyle choices can have on male fertility, it’s important to know that even small changes can lead to improvements.
The Mayo Clinic has many suggestions that can help: eating foods with antioxidants, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight. Always consult your doctor or a medical professional when seeking advice or help about your health.