Lifestyle Factors in Male Infertility

Lifestyle & male infertility at a glance

  • Problems with sperm can develop later in life due to illness, injury, health, age, and lifestyle.
  • Additionally, drug use, smoking, and alcohol can also affect sperm quality.
  • Healthy habits can increase chances of having good-quality sperm.

How lifestyle can affect fertility

Some men are born with problems affecting their sperm. More often, however, men develop problems later in life due to illness or injury. The number and quality of a man’s sperm can also be affected by his overall health and lifestyle. Behavior that may reduce sperm number and/or quality include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco usage
  • Drug usage
  • General health problems
  • Age
  • Certain medicines, such as anti-depressants
  • Radiation treatment and chemotherapy for cancer
  • Environmental toxins, including pesticides and lead
  • Oxidative DNA damage
Smoking, drinking alcohol, use of legal and illegal drugs, radiation exposure are some of the most common environmental assaults on the integrity of a man’s sperm cells.


Age factors

It’s common knowledge that a woman’s fertility declines with age, and in recent years, evidence has suggested that men, too, may be affected after age 40. The role of a man’s age in reproductive ability is of sufficient concern that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine now recommends sperm donors be men who are “ideally less than 40 years of age to minimize the potential hazards of aging.”

Increasingly more evidence suggests that older men have greater chances of fathering offspring who are at higher risk for birth defects and developmental disorders. Men’s bodies are constantly making new sperm cells, and so do not face the same problem as women who are born with all the egg cells they will ever have.

However, time and lifestyle have an impact on the parts that manufacture the cells. More sperm can be impaired from a DNA perspective, possibly putting a pregnancy at greater risk for miscarriage and children born with increased health risks.

Tips for improving male fertility

To maximize the likelihood of fathering healthy children, men should:

  • Participate in regular cardiovascular exercise.
  • Attend to proper nutrition and reduce obesity.
  • Reduce alcohol intake, especially in the several months prior to conceiving.
  • Control blood pressure, but be aware that certain blood pressure medications can be detrimental to sperm.
  • Avoid regular and prolonged exposure of the groin area to sources of high heat, such as hot tubs, Jacuzzis, and even laptops.
  • Avoid exposure to heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, as well as radiation and toxic chemicals, including some pesticides.
  • Avoid use of steroids.