Infertile men are more likely to develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, is one of a number of recent studies to link male infertility to other, seemingly-unrelated health problems.
“For members of this group of reproductive-age men, they usually don’t go to the doctor unless there is a big problem,” said Michael Eisenberg, assistant professor of urology and director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Stanford, and lead author of the study.
“A lot of time fertility is one of the first things that brings them to the doctor, so in some ways that might be an opportunity to engage the health-care system and see what’s going on with their general health.”
The research was conducted by examining records dated between 2001 and 2009. The analysis involved more than 115,000 men. The researchers compared the general health of infertile men to the general health of fertile men – and the results were surprising.
Infertile men had higher rates of the majority of diseases that the researchers were looking for, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Severely infertile men were also more likely to abuse alcohol and have renal disease.
“It was surprising,” said Eisenberg. “These were really young men. The average age was in the 30s.”
The researchers do not currently know why this might be the case.
“If we figure out why this is going o, we can target interventions to lower risk of these diseases.”
There are, however, several theories, chief among them the lower levels of testosterone in infertile men. Previous research has found strong links between low testosterone and type 2 diabetes, and low testosterone and heart disease.
It’s also possible that the effects could be triggered by environmental factors.
“Exposures that occur in utero can have lasting effects on the rest of your life,” explained Eisenberg. “So maybe some of these same exposures that set men up later in life for things like heart disease could also set them up for things like lower sperm count.”
Eisenberg urged infertile men to keep a vigilant eye on their health, particularly when it comes to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
“I think it’s important to know that sperm counts and fertility may tell a little more than just about reproductive potential. There may be some other aspects that men could be alerted to about overall health.”
Several complications of diabetes are also linked to infertility, including erectile dysfunction, retarded ejaculatio, retrograde ejaculatio, reduced sperm quality, and low testosterone.
The findings are published in Fertility and Sterility.

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