As a leader in male reproductive health, our Trak team is moustachio’ing themselves to provide some unique, sperm-related insight that can help younger men reduce their risk of developing life-threatening diseases.
To help explain why Trak is participating in Movember, we sat down for a Q&A with our Co-Founder and CSO, Greg Sommer:
Why is Movember an important time for men’s health?
The statistics around men’s health are alarming. On average, men die 6 years earlier than women, 1 in 7 men develop prostate cancer in their lifetime, and testicular cancer rates have doubled in recent decades with an average age at diagnosis of 33 years old.
We guys are typically terrible about talking about health issues, and we certainly don’t see a doctor regularly. Meanwhile, these diseases are killing us. Movember is a good time to start those important conversations – to help more guys think about their own health and hopefully help them avoid becoming one of those statistics.
How does sperm play into this topic, why does healthy sperm matter?
Well, sperm are a very interesting part of our biology. Of course we know that healthy sperm are critical for fertility, but there’s a large and growing body of scientific evidence that supports sperm being able to provide early indications into men’s overall health as well.
Back up a bit. Can you explain some of the evidence linking sperm to a man’s overall health?
Sure. Experts have long suspected that sperm count should be treated as a “biomarker” – meaning a low sperm count could be symptomatic of a more serious condition. For instance, low sperm count and infertility have been tied to higher rates of testicular and prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even early death.
The American Urology Association guidelines even state that infertility may be the manifestation of an underlying life-threatening disease. Dr. Michael Eisenberg from Stanford University Medical Center wrote a great guest blog on this topic for us, in which he calls sperm the “Sixth Vital Sign”. So someday soon doctors may check your sperm count the same way they check your weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate. Kind of a crazy, awkward thought, but that might be where we’re headed.
Does that mean there could soon be a little velvet curtain next to free the blood pressure test at the supermarket?
I wouldn’t go that far - you’re asking for trouble by proposing that idea. We built Trak so guys can test sperm count at home.
Our Trak Male Fertility Testing System and Refill Kits are changing the approach to men’s reproductive health by providing a private and convenient way to measure and track sperm count at home. Instead of waiting months or years to get tested, men can now easily get an early indication of their sperm health, and they can use the Trak App to get insight on what factors in their life could be contributing to fertility issues. Since sperm are a vital part of our underlying physiology, Trak is helping men identify and possibly prevent longer term health conditions earlier in their life.
There is a lot of discussion right now about men’s sperm counts continuing to decline. Does that mean men are getting less healthy?
There’s a lot more research needed to figure out why sperm counts are declining, but shifts in men’s overall health and lifestyle are widely thought to be at least contributing factors. Look at testicular cancer: the prevalence of testicular cancer has doubled in recent decades, and the average age at diagnosis is 33 years old.
We recently released some of our own data around men’s lifestyle habits and showed that today’s “every man” tends to be overweight, stressed out, not eating well, and not exercising regularly. The average age in our assessment was also 33 years old. Personally, I think we as men need to start living better. The behaviors and decisions we make early in our lives can catch up with us down the road. Much easier said than done, I know, but we need to do something soon and maybe the global sperm count crisis scare will help build awareness and push guys in the right direction.
We all did things in our youth that we wish we hadn’t. If you could go back and change one of your bad habits from early in life, what would it be?
For me, it would be my eating habits. I ate a lot of junk food when I was younger and never really thought twice about it. My college roommates and I would bring a bathroom scale to Applebee’s on Wednesday nights for All-You-Can-Eat Riblets just to see who could pack more on in one sitting. Needless to say, I used to be pretty heavy. Besides the health risks, the extra weight just takes a toll on you – it kills your energy, your mood, your endurance. If I could go back, I would try to set more boundaries around my nutrition and properly treat it as the basis for a healthy life.
How can guys find out if they’re at risk for sperm or infertility issues?
That’s our bread and butter! I recommend guys start by downloading the Trak App – it’s free, and will walk you through an extensive questionnaire that we built with top urologists to identify your personal risk factors. It’s incredibly analytical – you’ll get a Trak Score on a scale from 1 (bad) to 100 (excellent), and you’ll see how your responses and risks compare to other guys. The app will help you understand your risks and give you recommendations on your next steps.
So if sperm are so important, at what point do you recommend men get their sperm tested?
I think it depends on your situation. If you’re particularly at risk for infertility issues – say you’ve had an undescended testicle, groin injury, cancer, or some other reason to suspect an issue – I think it’s wise to get tested and keep tabs on your sperm health from a young age, maybe in your late teens. If you’re less at risk, I would recommend testing around the time that you and your partner are considering trying to start your family. Don’t wait. The sooner you can identify sperm problems, the better your ability to address it and improve both your reproductive and overall health. And if you’ve been struggling with infertility for some time, Trak can help you try to improve your health, lifestyle, and sperm count to push the odds of conception into your favor.
And what do you recommend to guys who test and get a low sperm count result?
If you test low, we recommend seeing a urologist who specializes in male reproductive health. Those doctors know what to look for and can provide the best care. They’ll likely do a full semen analysis and medical evaluation to see what’s going on and advise on next steps. There’s a lot of amazing things they can do – and the sooner you can get tested the better off you are.
We think it’s awesome you’re participating in No-Shave November, when was the last time you grew a moustache?
I don’t think I’ve ever really had a true moustache. I did a goatee for a bit in college. There were, also, a few months when I didn’t shave at all, but that was mostly just laziness. As a bald guy, I think it’s easier to just shave your entire head than to give your moustache the attention and grooming it deserves. So I’m excited to see how this moustache thing goes.
Thanks Greg. Is there anything else that you’d like to say to the readers?
Get your moustache on! Tweet or share with us your moustache pictures using the hashtag #TrakinMovember. Men’s health is facing a crisis, and we need people everywhere to spread the word as we work hard to reverse the trend. This is a great time to help. And I actually think a bad moustache is more effective than a good one. With a bad moustache, people will think ‘Hey, that moustache looks terrible. He must be growing it for something important.’ And just like that, Moustache Mission accomplished.