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Could a Low Sperm Count Mean More than Fertility Problems?


What does a decrease in sperm count mean for men? That's the question many are asking after a recent study found that sperm counts appear to have dropped by more than half in the past 40 years in the western world. "I don't think it's the end of the human race," said James Hotaling, MD, a reproductive urologist with University of Utah Health. "Even with a lower sperm count, a man can still be fertile. It's not like flipping a switch."

While decreased fertility is the first health concern people may associate with dropping sperm counts, it is not the only one. A decrease in sperm count could be associated with a number of different conditions including testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and some forms of leukemia. "A low sperm count has also been linked to coronary artery disease in men," said Hotaling.

Heart Health & Sperm Count

While the link between heart health and sperm count is well documented, it still is not clear what exactly causes it. It could be that men who are in overall poor health are more likely to have heart problems and decreased sperm counts. There could be environmental factors at play that are impacting both the cardiovascular and reproductive systems. Genetics could also be at play.

"If a man has a familial history of heart disease he may be more at risk," said Hotaling. "Same thing for decreased sperm count."

Is Low Sperm Count More than a Fertility Issue?

Regardless of the cause, the fact that decreased sperm count could signal other problems means men should not only be worried about fertility if they learn their count is low or dropping. While they should consult with a reproductive urologist, they also should make an appointment with their primary care physician to assess their overall health. "Men seek health care at a rate of 40% at that of women," said Hotaling. "This means they aren't catching potential problems in a timely manner that they would with regular health care."

More research needs to be done into why sperm counts seem to be dropping among men. At the very least, the study needs to be replicated to prove its results. For the time being though, the news is a reminder for men to focus more on their health—for both their reproductive futures and their overall wellbeing.