Infertility Isn't the Only Problem for Men With Low Sperm Counts

Sperm counts can indicate other health issues.

It’s well-established that sperm counts are plummeting in the Western hemisphere, dropping by more than 50 percent over the past 40 years. But while scientists agree that it’s a problem, they can’t yet agree upon the causes. This year, we learned that a low sperm count isn’t an issue singularly associated with infertility — it’s also linked to a multitude of other health concerns.

As Inverse reported in March, scientists speaking at the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting in March presented research demonstrating that low sperm quality is associated with metabolic alterations, cardiovascular risk, and low bone mass. Lead investigator Alberto Felrin, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Padova in Italy, announced that this means “infertile men are likely to have important co-existing health problems or risk factors that can impair quality of life and shorten their lives.”

This is #10 on Inverse‘s 25 Most Surprising Human Discoveries Made in 2018..

Ferlin and his team studied 5,177 male partners in infertile couples and discovered that men with low sperm counts were 1.2 times more likely to have more body fat, higher blood pressure, less “good” cholesterol, and more “bad” cholesterol. The broadly accepted standard for a low sperm count is less than 39 million wiggly reproductive cells per ejaculate.

Declining sperm counts are an indicator of declining overall health, say endocrinologists.

Flickr / Global Change Lab

They also found that this group of men was more likely to have “metabolic syndrome” — a cluster of conditions, including high blood pressure, that predisposes one to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. These men, compared to men with higher sperm counts, also had a higher resistance to insulin, a symptom that can precede diabetes.

This revelation — that a man’s semen count is an extremely transparent marker of his general health — can actually serve to benefit men. Knowing that these ailments are linked to low sperm count can prepare doctors to holistically take care of their patients when they come in for fertility treatments. Fertility specialists, Ferlin stresses, should recommend that their patients additionally see a primary care doctor. A low sperm count doesn’t just mean it’s harder to have a baby — it means that dad needs some extra care too.

As 2018 winds down, Inverse is highlighting 25 surprising things we learned about humans this year. These stories told us weird stuff about our bodies and brains, uncovered insights into our social lives, and illuminated why we’re such complicated, wonderful, and weird animals. This story was #10. Read the original story here.

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