In part 1 of this 2-part series, we talked about how infertility increases men’s risk of developing heart problems and cancer. If fatherhood is in the cards for you (or you’d like it to be), there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.

  • Cean up your life. Smoking, obesity, and a high-fat diet all contribute to infertility. In one study, men who got at least 37% of their daily calories from fat, had a 43% lower sperm count and 38% lower sperm concentration than the men with the lowest fat intake. Saturated fats are especially big contributors to infertility. In that same study, men who got at least of their daily calories from saturated fats had a 35% lower total sperm count and a 38% lower sperm concentration than the men consuming the lowest levels. There’s one kind of fat, though, that may be able to counteract these effects: omega-3 fatty acids. Higher levels are associated with a decrease in sperm abnormalities, which is a common cause of infertility.
  • Think about the next generation. You may not even be a dad yet, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about becoming a grand-dad. New research has found that women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have sons with low sperm counts. Actually, maternal smoking was one of three pregnancy-related factors that decreased sons’ sperm count at age 20. However, the other two—slow fetal growth and slow growth in childhood—are often caused by smoking during pregnancy. So, if you want to have grandkids, make sure their mother doesn’t reach for the pack of smokes. What she does today could lead to your future son’s infertility.
  • Stop doing the valsalva maneuver. What’s that? It’s the thing you do when you try to clear your ears when you’re in a fast-moving elevator, scuba diving, descending in an airplane, or just have a cold (a lot of people do it by pinching their nostrils shut and then trying to exhale air through the nose). Increasing the pressure like that can cause varicoceles, enlarged veins in the scrotum which are the most common cause of male infertility. The pressure from clearing your ears causes blood to pool in the testicles. That, in turn, increases the temperature in the scrotum, which effectively parboils—and kills—sperm (and that’s pretty much the definition of infertility). This may sound a little crazy, but Iranian researcher, Bijan Rezakhaniha found that wind musicians—who are effectively doing the valsalva maneuver for hours at a time, are twice as likely as non-wind musicians to have varicoceles. The good news is that in most cases, varicoceles are treatable. If you’re a musician and want to be a dad, this might be the time to give up the trumpet or oboe and pick up the violin or drums.

If you’re interested in learning more strange and unusual facts about sperm, fertility, and infertility, you may want to check out the series I did for the Talking About Men’s Health blog. Click here for links to part 1, part 2, and part 3.