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which list includes only lifestyle factors that people can change to improve their health

Approximately 10 to 15% of couples are impacted by infertility. Recently, the pivotal role that lifestyle factors play in the development of infertility has generated a considerable amount of interest. Lifestyle factors are the modifiable habits and ways of life that can greatly influence overall health and well-being, including fertility. Many lifestyle factors such as the age at which to start a family, nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological stress, environmental and occupational exposures, and others can have substantial effects on fertility; lifestyle factors such as cigarette smoking, illicit drug use, and alcohol and caffeine consumption can negatively influence fertility while others such as preventative care may be beneficial. The present literature review encompasses multiple lifestyle factors and places infertility in context for the couple by focusing on both males and females; it aims to identify the roles that lifestyle factors play in determining reproductive status. The growing interest and amount of research in this field have made it evident that lifestyle factors have a significant impact on fertility.

Proper nutrition, weight, and exercise may impact fertility. Though no definitive link has been drawn, choosing proper nutrition, whether it be choosing supplements or food groups, before and during attempts to conceive may be vital for improving fertility for both men and women. Men and women who are underweight or overweight are also at risk for negative side effects, including changes in hormone levels that heavily influence their fertility. Recent research suggests that weight plays an important role in fertility, and controlling and maintaining an ideal weight may provide a way for couples to increase their fertility. Exercise is suggested to be beneficial, though too much may be detrimental. Lean and underweight men or women who exercise vigorously may put themselves at risk for a decrease in fertility, thus finding a balance may provide the best chances of achieving a pregnancy.

Recreational and prescription substances also appear to have significant impact on fertility. Though clear links are yet to be determined, there are negative trends, including decreased semen parameters or decreased ovarian reserve, associated with smoking and fertility. If couples are attempting to achieve a pregnancy, limiting or smoking cessation may provide more positive outcomes. It is difficult to establish a link between illegal drug use and infertility as there are many ethical issues that prevent researchers from discovering a definitive relationship. Researchers have also had issues with drawing a definitive link between infertility and prescription medication, which often have known side effects, though fertility side effects are not often a concern when prescribing. Further research on many medications and drugs is needed in order to make any recommendations. While there is evidence to support that alcohol does have an impact on fertility, it is also difficult to establish a definitive link as there is no standard “drink” or comparative way to measure alcohol consumption. Despite these drawbacks to recent research, decreasing or ceasing alcohol consumption may provide a better chance of achieving a viable pregnancy for the couple. Though caffeine appears to have a negative effect on fertility, additional research is needed to elucidate if there is a definitive relationship.

The evidence suggests that age may play a large role in determining fertility. Attempting pregnancy before the age of 30 for women and before 35 for men may provide the highest chances of success. While it is important for one partner to consider their age, it is when both partners consider their ages together that they may be able to thoroughly increase their odds of having a successful pregnancy.

While some do not tend to think about stress as being abnormal, it does indeed take a heavy toll on a person, both physically and emotionally. One key factor in lowering stress level is determining how people recognize and respond to stress and how this relates to their behavior. Health Psychologists work in clinical settings promoting behavioral change that relates to the everyday anxieties of life. They inform the public, conduct research, teach at universities and work in the field of sports medicine.

Psychological determinants in health have been a focus since the beginning of the 20th century and results explain that people who eat regular meals, maintain a healthy weight, do not smoke, drink little alcohol, receive adequate sleep and exercise regularly are in better health and live longer. Scientists are also discovering associations between psychological and physiological processes. These include the influence of anxiety on the cardiovascular and immune systems and finding that the functioning of the immune system could be modified by training. There is also a growing awareness of the importance of sound communication skills during office visits.

Health psychologists attempt to assist in the manner of communication between doctors and patients during medical consultations. There are many difficulties in this process, with patients showing a significant lack of comprehension of many medical terms (Boyle, C.M. 1970).  One central area of investigation relates to “doctor-centered” consultations, which are directive and involves the one seeking help answer questions and performing less of a part in decision-making. Many people object to the sense of authority or disregard that this spurs and favors patient-centered consultations which focus on the patient’s needs. Patient centered consultations involve listening to the patient completely before reaching a decision and the person seeking help plays an active role in the process of choosing treatment.

When helping people develop a healthier lifestyle, career choice is another area that health psychology explore. There is a direct relationship between choices of work and physical and emotional health. The more frustrating the project the more risk people are placing themselves into developing an emotional and/or psychological illness. When someone is under stress, the body produces chemicals and hormones that it does not require and some of these substances may be harmful. The difficult conditions and the release of these substances results in a weakening of the immune system. When an immune system is weak people are more susceptible to physical and mental ailments (Ader, R. & Cohen, N. 1975).

One of Dr. Redline's projects, the HeartBEAT Study, is comparing treatments for sleep apnea to see whether they lower the risk of heart disease. The results of this research, which is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, may help reduce deaths from heart attacks and strokes.

If you work closely with older adults, chances are you’ve been asked about foods that increase longevity and help keep aging people looking and feeling young. Fortunately, more studies are showing that diet can powerfully affect longevity, and more people are seeing exciting results from simple dietary changes. It’s never too late to make positive changes. Older adults can make changes today that will improve their health tomorrow and may actually help them live longer in better health.

One noteworthy recommendation is consuming packaged (frozen and canned) fruits and vegetables in addition to fresh produce. Many people believe that only fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy; on the contrary, packaged varieties (without added salt or sugar) may be just as healthy as their fresh counterparts and perhaps even more so since the food is processed soon after harvesting. This early processing protects the food from nutrient losses due to heat, oxygen, and light.

Myriad studies have focused on the beneficial effects of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. These fats help reduce inflammation and protect the integrity of cell membranes from free radical damage.6 Omega-3 fatty acids may help protect people from age-related neurodegenerative disease, cognitive decline, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. For those who dislike fish or are vegetarians, other excellent sources of omega-3 fats include flaxseed and flax oil, canola oil, walnuts, soybeans, hemp seeds, and large amounts of leafy green vegetables.

Note that the Mediterranean diet is not only about eating lots of fish and olive oil. A healthful Mediterranean diet focuses on vegetables, legumes (dried beans and peas), fruits, nuts (especially walnuts), whole grains, fish, and a high monounsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio and deemphasizes alcohol and meat. Swapping burgers for fish and loading up on fruits and veggies really can make a difference.

Those of us who participate in regular physical activity do so partly to improve the current and future level of our health. We strive toward an optimal state of well-being. As our lifestyle improves, our health also improves and we experience less disease and sickness. When most people are asked what it means to be healthy, they normally respond with the four components of fitness mentioned earlier (cardiorespiratory ability, muscular ability, flexibility, and body composition). Although these components are a critical part of being healthy, they are not the only contributing factors. Physical health is only one aspect of our overall health.

As fitness professionals, we spend a great deal of time inspiring and assisting others in their pursuit of improved health. Education is an important aspect of this. We must promote the benefits of regular activity and help people understand why they should be active.

Health Canada introduced Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living to help Canadians make wise choices about physical activity as a way to improve health. Scientists say you should accumulate 60 minutes of physical activity every day to stay healthy or improve health. The recommendations in the Physical Activity Guide are as follows:


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