Male Fertility During Young Adulthood Correlated with Long-Term Health and Wellness

Posted by Dr. Michael White, Updated on January 17th, 2024
Reading Time: 5 minutes

We all know how vital testosterone is for establishing masculinity and preserving health in the short term.

However,  it is becoming more apparent that experiencing issues with testosterone levels and fertility earlier in life can impact one's health later in life.

In a study produced by the academic publication Fertility and Sterility, evidence has been provided that shows that men that have issues with conception and sexual health earlier in life are more prone to a variety of health issues later in life.

This study was a data-analysis conducted by Stanford University, in which 9,400 male patients were evaluated. Patients were chosen based on select criteria:

  • All patients were between the ages of thirty and fifty.
  • All patients went to a fertility clinic.

Among these men, patients were more likely to experience health issues such as Hypertension, skin issues, heart disease, and vascular ailments than the general population, if their fertility issues were the result of inadequate sperm-quality.

A study such as this suggests that having one's sperm health analyzed is not only an essential step for men with fertility issues, but may also be an important step in the analysis of total health and wellness, and, as such, may benefit all male patients as an aspect of a routine physical.

Preventative care is one of the best methods to improve longevity, and it appears that sperm-analysis may be another tool at our disposal to help young men get a window into their long-term health and wellness.

The lead researcher in this study is Dr. Barry Behr, who runs the Stanford Medicine and Reproductive Health Laboratory at Stanford, and is also an OBGYN Professor at the university.

He explains that sperm is a fantastic way to see into the health of a person because they are much more significant than regular cells, and also can transport themselves, which means that they are incredibly complex, and their health can be measured in a variety of distinct ways.

Dr. Behr believes that just by analyzing sperm, it will one day be possible to provide a wide array of medical information that will help the patient experience improved health and improved diagnostic evaluation from his doctor.

Sperm Health and Fertility Linked to Many Lifestyle Choices

There is a lot of evidence that already exists about how lifestyle choices and other factors impact sperm health.

For example, it is clear that smoking degrades fertility significantly, as does obesity. Obesity reduces fertility primarily because it reduces the amount of testosterone active in the body, and smoking introduces the body to a wide variety of carcinogens.

Cancer has also been shown to reduce fertility. The goal of this study, in particular, was to find out what other potential health issues were connected to matters related to sperm health and relative fertility.

In this study, forty-four percent of those analyzed visited a fertility clinic for medical issues that were not related directly to fertility. All patients visited a clinic in the years between 1994 and 2011.

Out of all patients analyzed, the median patient-age was thirty-eight years old.

Researchers analyzed the health data of these patients through access to their medical records.

They found that men with low sperm health were more likely to experience nonischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, and hypertension than their peers with healthy sperm.

In most cases, the correlation was quite clear: among patients with hypertension, 55 percent had issues with sperm health, whereas 44 percent of men without hypertension have unhealthy sperm.

Dr. Behr admits that the link between skin disease and semen quality was the one that surprised him the most.

Heart disease and hypertension may be more severe issues, but skin health is associated with access to the circulatory system, and as the cardiovascular system experiences problems, this leads directly to problems with both skin and sperm health, which both need lots of oxygen to be healthy.

Systemic Health Powerfully Correlated to Circulatory Access

The doctor likens these circulatory issues to a tree's access to water.

When looking at a cluster of trees along a small waterway, those that are closest to the water are the healthiest and most robust, whereas those further away from the water, and that thus have less access to the water, are less healthy than those closer to the water.

In general, our circulatory system works the same way. If there are outer body parts that don't have adequate access to oxygen, such as the reproductive system or the skin, this causes these peripheral systems to fall into a state of decline.

Correlation is Not Causation When it Comes to Sperm Quality

The researchers do request caution when analyzing the data that they have presented, however.

The study clearly shows that there is a correlation between the health of the sperm and various aspects of physiological health, but there is inadequate analysis to provide any sense of direct causation.

For example, in some instances, medications used for the treatment of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions may influence testicular health, clouding the actual causation of the results.

On the other hand, sperm quality and issues such as skin health may not be directly related, but both end-causes of other factors such as cardiovascular disease.

Testosterone could also play a dominant role in causation, as it relates not only to sperm and sexual health, but other factors associated with good health as well.

Testosterone deficiency could be influencing all of these adverse health factors — and in that case, Low-T treatment could mitigate some of these health risks in the long-term for these patients.

Sexual Health and Physiological Health Tightly Linked at the Genetic Level

Our genetic code devotes an enormous amount of script to proper reproductive function in males — between ten and fifteen percent of our DNA is related to sexual function and reproduction.

Frequently, these genes also have essential jobs regarding their influence on other physiological systems within the body.

Future Clinical Uses of Fertility Testing for Medical Treatment and Health Analysis

With the information that researchers are beginning to understand regarding how heart health, cardiovascular health, and sperm health are linked, they hypothesize that, in the future, treatments to improve the health of the cardiovascular system may be tweaked to improve the health of the male reproductive system.

On the other hand, there are instances in which reducing sperm count could benefit the patients, perhaps in the case of particular treatments.

Maybe specific cardiovascular drugs could be used along with current chemotherapy and radiation treatments to amplify the effectiveness of cancer therapy.

Sperm Health and Long-Term Health Both Affected by Lifestyle Choice

The authors of the study still stress that the root of many health issues is the result of lifestyle and that making changes to activity level and diet may allow patients to experience long-term benefit to their both reproductive and general health by making simple improvements with their lifestyle.

By using sperm testing as an indicator of long-term health risks, patients may be given insight into their future health, such that they can make healthy changes today, or receive adequate therapy today, to mitigate the risk of medical issues in the future.

Testosterone replacement and hormone optimization may be a significant aspect of that preventative maintenance.


Sperm counts and fertility in men: a rocky road ahead.

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