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17 things that affect your sperm

Worried about your sperm count? Sperm motility? Here's what you need to be aware of.

Read this article in HINDI

Sperm is the male reproductive cell that develops in the testicles and is released in semen from the penis during ejaculation. The ability of semen to accomplish fertilization is measured by sperm quantity and quality. Sperm motility is its ability to swim forward towards an egg, a factor in successful fertilization and pregnancy.

Human testicles produce millions of sperm cells daily. The normal level for sperm volume is 1.5 to 5 millilitres per ejaculation. Sperm count, or sperm concentration measures the concentration of sperm in the semen. According to the WHO in 2010, a sperm count of over 15 million sperm per millilitre is considered normal. A low sperm count is called oligospermia. It can affect fertility.

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Factors that Adversely Affect Sperm Health

1. Age - The volume, motility and quality of sperm typically decrease with age and it can lead to couple s infertility and a range of negative health problems for the child. According to a study, men waiting longer to have children could have a significant impact on the health of their offspring.1 The specific problem with older semen is lower volume, poor sperm performance, and increase in malformed and DNA-damaged sperm.

2. Injury - Trauma to the testicle doesn't affect the quality of sperm cells already produced. But, it can block the blood supply to the sperm producing tissue and affect its ability to produce sperm.

3. Bodybuilding supplements - Use of anabolic steroids and other hormones among teenagers may result in the shrinking of testes, decrease in the sperm count, reduced sperm quality which in turn leads to infertility.

4. Heat - Sperm are heat-sensitive. Hence, fever can affect sperm quality. Some studies have linked increased exposure to heat with lowered sperm count. Using hot bathtubs, hot showers and Jacuzzis for a long time can obstruct the testicles and harm healthy sperm.2 A study has revealed that tight underwear may raise the temperature of scrotum and affect sperm production. Varicocele (swelling of the veins that drain the testicle) may prevent normal cooling of the testicle, leading to reduced sperm count and fewer moving sperm.

5. Radiation - A new research has found that long-term exposure to radiation at the workplace may play havoc with sperm quality. Sperm of men exposed to radiation have decreased motility, altered shape, vitality and severely compromised DNA quality. Exposure to radiation from carrying a mobile phone in the trouser pocket can negatively impact sperm quality.3 Mobile phones might adversely affect the quality of semen by decreasing mostly motility, and also sperm counts, viability and morphology.

6. Smoking - Lighting up can significantly increase the level of cadmium in the semen, while lowering the zinc levels. Cadmium can damage the DNA of your sperms, killing them, reducing their count.

7. Alcohol - Intoxication has its effects on sexual and reproductive well-being too. Researchers have found that drinking just five units of alcohol a week could affect sperm quality of young men.

8. Recreational drugs - Recreational drugs like marijuana and cocaine can cause lowered seminal fluid production, lowered blood supply to the penis, poor sperm quality and lowered sperm count.

9. Stress - A high level of stress hormones in the blood can lower sperm count, affect sperm production and also affect the sperm quality. According to a significant study, psychological stress is harmful to sperm and semen quality, affecting its concentration, appearance and ability to fertilize an egg.4

10. Environmental pollutants - Chemical agents in the environment may affect male fertility.5 Chemicals like lead, mercury, pesticides, etc. have been associated with decreased semen quality.

11. Medications - Certain medications may suppress sperm production, lower sperm count and/or reduce their ability to achieve fertilization.

12. Soy and soy-based products - Few scientific studies have shown that consumption of very high amounts of soy or soy-based products on a daily basis can cause sexual disruption in men such as altered testosterone (male hormone) levels, reduced libido, sperm count and fertility levels.

13. Undescended testicles - During the first three to six months after birth the testicles naturally move down into the scrotum. But sometimes the testicles stay undescended which can cause low sperm count.

14. Obesity - Obesity is a leading cause of infertility in both men and women. In men, it can affect the sperm count.

15. Diabetes - According to findings of a study, diabetes more than doubles the risk of DNA damage in sperms. Sperm count is significantly reduced, and the movement and appearance of sperm is affected.6

16. Sexually transmitted diseases - STDs can affect sperm production and motility. Sometimes, the toxins released by the pathogens can directly affect the sperm DNA.

17. Certain medical conditions - In male hypogonadism, the body doesn't produce enough testosterone. Hence, the ability to produce sperm is impaired. Men with Klinefelter syndrome have lower amounts of testosterone. The testicles in such men produce little or no sperm.

Getting Healthy Sperm

The right diet, consisting of foods rich in nutrients like zinc and Vitamin B6 can help increase sperm count in men. Eggs, fish and strawberries are rich in zinc. Omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts can boost the sperm s quality. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene that can improve the quality, mobility and volume of sperm. Reducing alcohol intake, cutting on tobacco and staying away from recreational drugs can aid in the production of sperm. Avoid stress. Being active can help. Exercising can help obese people lose weight and improve sperm quality and count.

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1. Sharma R, Agarwal A, Rohra V, Assidi M, Abu-Elmagd M, Turki RF. Effects of increased paternal age on sperm quality, reproductive outcome and associated epigenetic risks to offspring. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2015 Apr 19;13(1):35. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25928123.

2. Garolla A, Torino M, Sartini B, Cosci I, Patassini C, Carraro U, Foresta C. Seminal and molecular evidence that sauna exposure affects human spermatogenesis. Hum Reprod. 2013 Apr;28(4):877-85. doi: 10.1093/humrep/det020. Epub 2013 Feb 14. PubMed PMID: 23411620.

3. Agarwal A, Durairajanayagam D. Are men talking their reproductive health away? Asian J Androl. 2015 May-Jun;17(3):433-4. doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.140963. PubMed PMID: 25432495

4. Bhongade MB, Prasad S, Jiloha RC, Ray PC, Mohapatra S, Koner BC. Effect of psychological stress on fertility hormones and seminal quality in male partners of infertile couples. Andrologia. 2015 Apr;47(3):336-42. doi: 10.1111/and.12268. Epub 2014 Mar 26. PubMed PMID: 24673246.

5. Jurewicz J, Hanke W, Radwan M, Bonde JP. Environmental factors and semen quality. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2009;22(4):305-29. doi:10.2478/v10001-009-0036-1. Review. PubMed PMID: 20053623.

6. Ding GL, Liu Y, Liu ME, Pan JX, Guo MX, Sheng JZ, Huang HF. The effects of diabetes on male fertility and epigenetic regulation during spermatogenesis. Asian J Androl. 2015 Mar 24. doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.150844. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25814158.

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