How diet slows sperm motility; are the elderly on too many meds?

— By Michael Roizen, M.D.

and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

King Features Syndicate

Q: My wife and I are trying to get pregnant, but things aren’t working out. Before we try in vitro, what can I do to increase my contribution to our chances? -- Stan Y., Willoughby, Ohio

A: In vitro fertilization isn’t always effective. For women younger than 35, the success rate is just over 21%; for those 38-40, the rate is around 11%. So before you start down that road, here’s our advice:

Don’t smoke (anything); cut down on or avoid all alcohol; exercise regularly; maintain a healthy weight; and eat a healthy diet.

There’s a reason why a good diet is so important. New research from Sweden shows that too much sugar in the diet has a chilling effect on sperm motility. Just two weeks of a sugary diet (or what most Americans, unfortunately, eat regularly) can sink your swimmers. The good news? The researchers found a very strong link between good nutrition and reproductive health.

So, here are some nutritional plans you might try -- after giving up all added sugars and syrups. According to an annual U.S. News and World Report paper created by 25 nutritionists, dietary consultants and physicians specializing in diabetes, heart health and weight loss, the top three diets, based on palatability, sustainability, family-friendliness and healthiness are:

  1. The Mediterranean Diet, which we advocate. It’s based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, seafood, lean skinless meats (as a side dish) and extra-virgin olive oil.

  2. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet. It was developed to lower blood pressure without medication. It encourages you to reduce sodium in your diet while emphasizing vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy, moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts.

  3. The Flexitarian Diet. You don’t have to cut out all animal proteins, just eat lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes and whole grains, eliminate red and processed meats, and eat fish and poultry occasionally.

Q: My mother is 84 and takes lots of medications. I’m worried that her confusion and fatigue are really from the meds, not old age. She’s moving into a step-care facility in six months, but for now I need some advice. -- Janice J., Austin, Texas

A: Your mom’s situation is common. It’s reported that U.S. seniors take an average of five to 15 prescription drugs annually -- and many take more. estimates that more than 50% of adults 57-85 are taking over five medications or OTC supplements daily! There’s no doubt that the risk of negative interactions between drugs and between drugs and supplements and errors in taking them are huge. That’s especially true for older folks because of age-related changes in drug metabolism that are not always taken into consideration in the approved dosages. Your best protection:

  1. Take a list of all prescriptions, over-the-counter meds and supplements to her docs. Have them look it over for any contraindications or negative interactions. You can also check with her pharmacist -- a much underused resource for finding out about medication conflicts.

  2. Ask the doctors about the necessity of each med. Studies show many older people stay on prescription drugs longer than needed. Also inquire about reducing dosages.

  3. Each week, set up your mom’s pills in a daily, morning and night pillbox -- or arrange for someone to help her. There are also services that are linked to insurance plans that can deliver sorted weekly meds.

Don’t think that being in an assisted living facility will solve these issues. You’ll still need to check with her docs about the meds she takes, their side effects, interactions and doses. Nursing home residents are prescribed more medications than patients in any other setting. Half of nursing home residents have experienced an adverse drug reaction. And those who are taking nine or more medications are 2.3 times more likely to have such a bad experience. So stay concerned and involved.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at [email protected].

(c)2020 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.