Men: How Healthy is Your Sperm?
Are you hoping to hear the pitter patter of little feet in the near future? If so, you may want to give some thought to the health of your sperm. It takes two to make a baby and you want to do your part to ensure your baby is healthy from day one.
Did you know your body produces about 100 million sperm each day? A man has, on average, about 39 million sperm at any point in time, although sperm counts do typically decline as men age.
Three factors determine if your sperm are healthy:
- Quantity-more than 39 million.
- Quality-normal shape and structure, which means an oval head and long tail.
- Mobility-at least 40 percent should be moving.
Scientists are concerned about steep declines in sperm count in the U.S. and Europe over the past six or seven decades. In fact, of couples who can't conceive, 40 to 50 percent are due to male infertility. Furthermore, reproductive disorders (male or female) cause birth defects, developmental disorders, low birth rates, reduced fertility, and preterm births.
So, to ensure you approach fatherhood with the healthiest possible sperms, here are some points you should consider:
- Provide the right building blocks. Take a multivitamin and be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Manage your stress. Stress increases levels of cortisol (a hormone), which can affect reproductive hormones.
- Stay physically active and maintain a healthy weight. Obesity disrupts the production and work of male hormones.
- Smoke, take drugs, or consume excessive alcohol or caffeine.
- Overheat your testicles. Hot baths, saunas, tight underwear, prolonged sitting, or rest your laptop on your lap. These can all raise the temperature in your testicles, which harm developing sperm.
- Take medications harmful to sperm. This includes anabolic steroids, testosterone-based supplements, and anti-androgen drugs. Tagamet (cimetidine), a popular over-the-counter drug for heartburn and ulcers, can also harm sperm reproduction.
- Eat or drink an excessive amount of soy products. Soy is rich in estrogenic compounds, which can lower sperm counts.
- Overlook your exposure to household and environmental toxins. There are 24,000 toxins in the environment linked to negative health effects. Scientists believe exposure to these pollutants is the greatest threat to sperm health and may explain the decline in sperm counts in developed countries. Lead and mercury are two of the worst offenders. Phthalates, Bisphenol A, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), radon, pesticides, and ozone all put sperm health at risk.
Mayo Clinic. "Healthy sperm: Improving your fertility." Web. 16 December 2010.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "Lead and Age Reduce The Fertilizing Ability of Sperm." Web. http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/sep/2003/sperm.cfm
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "Reproductive health." Web. http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/repro-health/index.cfm
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "Consumption of Foods with High Soy Content is Associated with Lower Sperm Concentrations in Men." Web. http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/sep/2008/consumption.cfm
Kim, Ben MD. "Most Common Household Toxins." Blog posting. Web. 28 May 2006.
Kim, Ben MD. "How to Improve Sperm Count and Quality." Blog posting. Web 8 May 2008.
Sokol, Rebecca Z., Kraft, Peter, Fowler, Ian M., Mamet, Rizvan, Kim, Elizabeth, and Berhane, Kiros T. "Exposure to Environmental Ozone Alters Semen Quality." Environmental Health Perspectives 114(3) (2006): 360-365. Medscape Medical News. Web. 28 March 2006.
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