Infertile Men Have a Higher Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

By CDC/Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr. (Public Health Image Library (PHIL) ID#: 847) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Men who are diagnosed with infertility have a higher than average risk of developing other health problems, including; drug abuse, ischemic heart disease, alcohol abuse, and diabetes, when compared with men who have no fertility issues.

The Study Results

The results of the study were published in the December 7th, 2015 issue of Fertility and Sterility. It was one of several studies conducted by investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine and it was related to higher rates of mortality and health problems unrelated to reproductive health.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Michael Eisenberg, assistant professor and director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Stanford, hopes these findings will embolden more men diagnosed with infertility to get follow-up care.

Laurence Baker, PhD, professor of health research and policy and lead author of the study said, “For members of this group of reproductive-age men, they usually don’t go to the doctor unless there is a big problem. 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 team examined records filed between 2001 and 2009, of more than 115, 000 reproductive-age men from an anonymous insurance claims database. The team analyzed the men’s medical visits before and after fertility testing to find out what health implications they developed in the years after fertility evaluations. They then compared general health conditions of men who had been diagnosed with infertility to men without the diagnosis and to men who had a vasectomy.

Of these three groups, infertile men had higher rates of most diseases the researchers were screening for in the study, including heart disease and diabetes, even when the results were modified for smoking, obesity and health care utilization. Additionally, men with the most severe type of male infertility had the highest risk of renal disease and alcohol abuse.

Eisenberg said, “It was surprising. These were really young men. The average age was in the 30s.”
He and his colleagues are very eager to pursue investigations to help find out why infertile men have a higher risk of these diseases. He said, “If we figure out why this is going on, we can target interventions to lower risks of these diseases.”


Researchers don’t yet know why infertility is linked to higher rates of illness and mortality, but some theories exist.

Dr. Eisenberg noted that men with infertility had lower levels of circulating testosterone than fertile men, a characteristic which has been linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

In conclusion, Eisenberg said, “I think it’s important to know that sperm count 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.”


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