What semen has to say about overall health

'The shin bone's connected to the knee bone. The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone.

The thigh bone's connected to the …” You know the drill — and while “Dem Bones” is an amusing kids' song, it also makes a very important point about health in general. One condition often is connected to another, and may serve as a clue to other, possibly larger, health issues.

Take male infertility: About 15 percent of all couples have fertility issues, and in half of those cases it's because the man's semen (the ejaculate that contains fluid and sperm) is abnormal in some way. Stanford University researchers looked at 9,000 guys 30-50 who had fertility problems and found that even in this relatively young sampling, around 44 percent of the guys also had some other significant health issue, such as hypertension, vascular disease and heart disease. In addition, they found that as the number of defects (lower semen volume, concentration, motility, total sperm count and morphology scores) in a guy's semen increased, the more likely he was to also have an endocrine disorder or skin disease. Researchers are analyzing the data to determine which specific endocrine and skin conditions were most often associated with fertility problems.

Because the average age of study participants was 38, the researchers suggest that any younger guy with fertility challenges should get checked out for cardiovascular, endocrine and skin problems. The good news is that resolving those issues may help resolve fertility problems and dodge other serious health challenges down the road.

WHEN I'M 64 … MARRIAGE COUNSELING

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?” Paul McCartney answered his own question with a big fat “No!” Right after turning 64, he and his second wife, Heather Mills, divorced. It's not uncommon these days for even long-married folks to separate. The U.S. divorce rate for couples in their 50s and 60s has doubled in the past 24 years: One in 4 divorces is among couples 50 and older; it's 1 in 10 among those over 65.

Why is this happening? Perhaps because many people are living longer, healthier lives (at age 72, Sir Paul enjoys a third wife, great health and boundless energy) and don't feel duty-bound to stay in a dysfunctional relationship. They realize they've got a lot of life left to enjoy — that's is, if they've maintained a younger RealAge by eating right, staying trim, exercising and managing stress. Plus, leaving a toxic relationship helps reduce your risk of heart disease, according to Michigan State University researchers, and lessens the risk for depression.

But divorce isn't always the smart choice. Repairing a broken marriage deepens love and reinforces its health benefits, like longevity and happiness. Such repairs often can be achieved with marriage counseling: Some studies show that it improves 70 percent of relationships.

LOW-DOWN ON HIGH FRUCTOSE

When Grimm's wicked witch asked, “Who's nibbling on my house?” Hansel and Gretel ignored the question and continued to break pieces off her tasty gingerbread cottage. We bet that house was sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup — most prefab baked goods are — and, according to a new study, that may be why the kids were determined to keep eating, despite the danger.

Some folks doubt HFCS is any worse than glucose (plain table sugar), and remember, all ADDED sugars and syrups fuel body-wide inflammation contributing to obesity, heart disease and cancer, so here's the scoop.

The sugar contained in HFCS stimulates a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which is a key player in the brain's reward system. It activates two neurotransmitters: dopamine, the “I want” hormone, and serotonin, the hormone that affects both satiety and inhibition. In other words, when you consume HFCS you feel hungry longer and crave more food. Apparently glucose doesn't do that, according to research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in December 2014. So what products contain HFCS? It's everywhere! Read the labels. Samples: Coca-Cola, many relishes and Miracle Whip.

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