According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, otherwise known as "bad" cholesterol, is a potentially negative health condition that affects more than 70 million Americans. Although it’s a quiet condition, without any visible signs or symptoms, the CDC notes that maintaining healthy LDL cholesterol levels is important at every stage of life. Including when you are younger and thinking about starting a family, as well as when you get older and simply want to stave off heart disease.
Even though most people recognize the dangers of high LDL cholesterol on the heart and circulatory system, the CDC also notes that only 1 out of 3 adults have their cholesterol under control. The body needs some LDL cholesterol as a way to maintain nerve cells, but when there is too much LDL, the fatty substance can build up on the walls of the arteries, which can restrict blood flow and can lead to two of the most common causes of death in the U.S., heart disease and stroke.
However, what most people do not realize is that LDL can also affect fertility. It's not necessarily the high cholesterol that causes infertility since there are many potential causes of infertility. However, medical research has linked high LDL cholesterol to infertility because of its proven negative impact on blood flow. As cholesterol begins to clog your blood vessels and hinder blood flow, your blood pressure can increase at the same time.
Studies show it takes considerably longer for couples that have a high level of LDL cholesterol to become pregnant than couples with levels that fell within the normal scale. This is more common than most couples think. The study of the connection between cholesterol and fertility is ongoing, but the CDC suggests that high LDL levels may reduce semen quality, in the form of a lower sperm count.
Over time, research into the link between LDL and fertility has indicated that couples, where either one or both spouses or partners had high cholesterol, took much longer to become pregnant as compared to couples whose cholesterol levels were within the "normal" range. Those couples in which both the prospective mother and father had high cholesterol levels took the longest time to conceive a child. Also, research shows that couples in which the woman had high cholesterol and the man were in the "normal" range took longer to become pregnant than couples where both partners had cholesterol levels in the normal range.
Another problem that may be caused by high LDL cholesterol has to do with hormone levels in the body. Hormones are recognized as an essential element of fertility. When the body is not producing enough of certain hormones, there is little chance that pregnancy will occur. When there is unhealthy hormonal activity, the sperm will view the body as a hostile environment, so it will not latch on or survive.
While your cholesterol level may not be the primary cause of your infertility, there is no downside to lowering high LDL cholesterol levels to a healthy point. Doing so can only improve your chances of having a baby. Regardless of your current health and activity, your life-long goal should be to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which will lower your LDL considerably.
In most cases, to lower your cholesterol levels and to become healthier, it is beneficial to lose weight through diet and exercise and to quit smoking and drinking altogether. All of this can help lower your cholesterol, so you can focus on what is causing your infertility without distraction.
If you suspect that you or your partner's inability to conceive may be caused by a high level of LDL or by anything else, we urge you to seek the help of a Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist at Island Fertility by calling (631) 638-4600 to schedule your appointment.