While a low sperm count and problems with sperm quality are huge hurdles for couples who are trying to get pregnant, a new study shows that men with low sperm counts are also at increased risk of illness.
The study of 5,177 men in Italy found that those with low sperm counts were 20% more likely to have more body fat, more "bad" cholesterol and higher blood pressure – all factors that increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke. They were also 12 times more likely to have low testosterone levels.
Dr Alberto Ferlin, from the University of Bresci, who led the study, said: "Infertile men are likely to have important co-existing health problems or risk factors that can impair quality of life and shorten their lives.
"Fertility evaluation gives men the unique opportunity for health assessment and disease prevention."
The study’s authors say that men with low sperm counts should be actively checked for other potential health problems, which may have a greater chance of being rectified if treated earlier.
However, the authors of the study stressed that their findings did not prove that low sperm counts cause metabolic problems, merely that the two are linked in some way.