Lifestyle, Age & Male infertility

Factors affecting male fertility at a glance

  • Overall health and lifestyle can affect the number and quality of a man’s sperm. Certain behavior and lifestyle factors that can affect the sperm include alcohol consumption, drug use, and health problems.
  • Although age-related infertility is generally focused on women, evidence in recent years may show that men’s fertility also declines after age 40.
  • There are several things men can do to decrease their chances of having lifestyle factors affect their fertility.

Lifestyle factors affecting male infertility

Sometimes men are born with problems affecting their sperm but often develop problems later in life from illness, injury or lifestyle.

Overall health and lifestyle can affect the number and quality of a man’s sperm. Certain behavior and lifestyle factors that can affect the sperm include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Drug use
  • Tobacco use
  • Medicines, such as anti-depressants
  • Cancer radiation treatment and chemotherapy
  • Environmental toxins, including pesticides and lead
  • Oxidative DNA damage
  • General health problems

The most common environmental factors affecting a man’s sperm are smoking, drinking alcohol, use of legal and illegal drugs, and radiation exposure.

Age factors

Although age-related infertility is generally focused on women, evidence in recent years may show that men’s fertility also declines after age 40. This is shown in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommendation that sperm donors be “ideally less than 40 years of age to minimize the potential hazards of aging.”

Men produce new sperm cells throughout their lifetime, and so do not face the same age-related infertility issue women do, which is the depletion of the egg reserve. In older males, however, time and lifestyle affect the sperm DNA and increasing evidence suggests that children fathered by older males may have a higher risk of birth defects and developmental disorders. This may also put pregnancies at a greater risk for miscarriage and babies born with increased health risks.

Tips for improving male fertility

To maximize the chances of having healthy sperm, and thus a healthy pregnancy, men should:

  • Participate in regular cardiovascular exercise.
  • Reduce alcohol intake, particularly the several months before trying to conceive.
  • Control blood pressure, but keep in mind some blood pressure medications can have negative effects on sperm.
  • Avoid using steroids.
  • Avoid exposing the groin area to high heat for continual and prolonged periods, including hot tubs, Jacuzzis, and even laptops.
  • Avoid exposure to heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, as well as radiation and toxic chemicals, including some pesticides.
  • Maintain proper nutrition and weight.