Keeping your heart happy and healthy during fertility treatment

It only seems appropriate that February, the month that brings us Valentine’s Day, is also the month set aside to focus on heart health. But what does heart health have to do with fertility? Plenty. In fact, heart health and fertility go hand in hand.

Men undergoing fertility treatment are often at greater risk of heart disease. It’s difficult to parse out just how fertility and heart disease are interrelated, but it could be that the same behavioral and environmental factors that impact fertility in men also impact heart health. Entering fertility treatment may offer a secondary benefit to men by uncovering heart issues early on and offering the opportunity to address them before they become more serious.

The story is the same for women who struggle with infertility, particularly for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Many women with PCOS have elevated levels of insulin, which may lead to elevated triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), high cholesterol, blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, all of which also lead to increased risk for a heart attack or stroke.

But there’s a silver lining: according to a recent study, women who become pregnant with reproductive assistance therapies experience lower rates of future heart-related issues. The lower risk later on may be attributable to healthier lifestyle changes women often make in an effort to become pregnant, such as quitting smoking and losing weight.

What can you do to take care of your heart here and now, and in the long term? Here are some tips:

  • Check in with your doctor. Get a read on key indicators for heart health, like blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Discuss results with your doctor and make a plan to address any numbers that seem troubling.
  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. Your doctor can recommend smoking cessation programs and treatment.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Fill your place with fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and cut back on salt, sugars and saturated or trans fats. Get your protein from beans, low- or fat-free dairy products, lean meats and fish.
  • Enjoy regular exercise that gets your heart pumping. Even just 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise like walking can help. Find activities you enjoy and make moving part of your daily routine.
  • Reduce stress. All the good work you do can be undone by stress. Stress may send you right back to smoking, indulging in unhealthy food, and other negative behaviors. Learn to reduce and manage stress in ways that are healthy for you, like meditation or exercise.
  • Get some sleep. Aim for a good seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you struggle to wake up in the morning or feel sleepy throughout the day, check in with your doctor.

While there is a link between infertility and heart disease, the fertility testing many infertile men and women undergo can provide them with valuable information about their general health. Schedule an appointment with one of our specialists today by calling us at 615-721-6250

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Jenny Shanks

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