Dimmer Swimmers: The Curious Link Between Lifestyle and Sperm Count

May 25, 2022
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When Meghan Markle became the Duchess of Sussex at 36 earlier this year, the media became fixated on her seemingly declining egg reserves. Even as a newly minted royal, the spotlight on her fertility left no room for scrutiny of her better half, Prince Harry, who, at 33, wasn't far behind on the fertility treadmill. The world's obsession with the new duchess parlayed from a time-served, albeit blinkered global conversation about the short-lived nature of female fertility. Royal or not, Markle was a woman - and north of 35.

Delve deeper into this conversation, however, and you'll notice that the woman-centric fertility narrative is only one half of a whole. With lifestyle factors eating into fertility, sperm counts are declining at an alarming rate, making men more susceptible to infertility. All the more reason to acknowledge that the Markle media frenzy was a royally distorted view of fertility. With male infertility today significantly rooted in poor lifestyle, these 8 factors explain why.

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Factors that are significantly rooted in lifestyle which are responsible for male infertility are:

  • Smoking

Smoking can work against sperm in two ways: it can damage sperm quality, and it can push down the body's antioxidant reserves, in turn, exposing sperm to free radicals. Studies show that couples undergoing fertility treatment typically experience greater setbacks if the male partner smokes.

  • Stress

Did you know that there's a hormone for stress? Stress hormones can disrupt the hormonal balance ideal for sperm production. Elevated stress levels are directly linked to poor sperm quality. If you are prone to stress, seek outlets to relieve your anxiety. A nutritious diet, yoga, meditation, adequate sleep, and routine exercise can all work together to minimise stress and harmonise the mind. Also, identify specific stressors in the workplace or at home. If you are faced with a taxing work environment, try speaking to your manager about how best you can move forward. Or, if you feel burdened by infertility, meet a counsellor along with your partner to air your thoughts and worries. There's nothing like open dialogue to clear your mind and reset your body.

  • Diet

If you're the type to reach for the nearest bag of chips when you hear your tummy whir, this one's for you. Truth is, a poor diet low in zinc can impair fertility. Male sex glands and sperm carry a large zinc composition. However, in modern-day, fast-food diets, the zinc component of traditional meals is mostly missing. The solution? Fish, eggs, whole grains and other zinc-rich foods.

Must read - Sperm Spoilers (foods that affect fertility in men)

  • Overweight

Excessive body fat can lead to hormonal disturbances that hamper sperm quality and affect libido. Extreme overweight is also linked to erectile dysfunction. Plus, with surplus fat pockets around the testicles there is a likely possibility of reduced sperm quantity and quality.

  • Insufficient Sleep

Perpetual exhaustion can impact sperm production. But insufficient sleep is a deeper rooted problem than just acting as a precursor to low sperm count. It conveys a picture of stress or an unhealthy lifestyle, both individual  contributors to compromised sperm quality. It's safe to say that an unhealthy lifestyle can affect your chances of conceiving a baby, whether you're male or female, royalty or not. If you are planning to start a family and currently a life lacking nutrition, sleep or peace of mind, begin by making small changes. In the long-run, they'll pay off, not just for you, but also for your future family.