Although a healthy male discharges 50 million sperm in a single ejaculation only a few will make it to a mature egg that is ready to be fertilized.
The most important factors in assessing the fertilizing capability of sperm are:
•Quantity. A fertile man should have more than 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
•Quality. Morphology (size and shape). A normal sperm has an oval head and a long tail to propel it forward.
•Motility. Sperm have to move. They need to be strong swimmers to reach and penetrate the egg. It can take about 75 days for sperm cells to grow to maturity; harming them can affect fertility. Here are several factors that may affect a man’s sperm.
To make healthy sperm, try to avoid the following:
•Hot Tubs: Frequent hot tubs have been shown to affect sperm count. According to a study published in 2007, spending more than 30 minutes in a hot tub or bath may lower the sperm count. Saunas and steam rooms may have a similar effect. If the temperature of the testicles is raised to 98˚, sperm production ceases, according to Hal Danzer, M.D., a Los Angeles fertility specialist.
•Tight clothing: Tight, constricted shorts, trousers and underwear, even synthetic material. Baggy cotton boxers might be preferable! Keep the jewels cool. It is known that the temperature in the scrotum area should be lower than body temperature.
•Alcohol and Cigarettes: Alcohol can damage sperm. Heavy drinking may reduce the quality and quantity of sperm, while cigarette smoking impairs sperm’s motility and quality, according to a recent study.
•Drugs: There are a number of drugs that affect male fertility; including steroids, certain drugs used in cancer treatments, and opiates.
•Obesity: Obesity has been associated with decreased sperm counts, says Daniel A. Potter, M.D., of the Huntington Reproductive Center in California.
•Excessive ejaculation and prolonged abstinence: Both are known to affect the number and quality of sperm. Intercourse every 2 to 3 days helps ensure optimal sperm count and health.
•Laptops: According to researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, there is a direct correlation between laptop use and increased scrotum temperature; up to 35˚ in certain positions. Move the device away from your lap.
•Fevers: A high fever can affect a man’s sperm, with lasting effects.
Strategies to support high-quality sperm production:
•Take a multivitamin. A daily multivitamin can support overall health and provide selenium, zinc, vitamin C, E and folic acid; nutrients that are important for sperm count and sperm function.
•Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. These foods are rich in antioxidants, which may help improve sperm health.
•Get regular exercise. Physical activity is good for reproductive health as well as overall health. However, overdoing it can cause temporary changes in hormone levels and a drop in sperm quality.
•Watch your weight. Too much or too little body fat may disrupt production of reproductive hormones, which can reduce sperm count and increase the percentage of abnormal sperm.
•Reduce stress. Stress might interfere with certain hormones needed to produce sperm. Stress can also decrease sexual function.
•Time of day: Sperm counts are usually higher in the morning.
If you are concerned about your sperm fitness and health, contact your family doctor. Simple tests could provide some answers.
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