London: People who have children are less likely to die of heart-related problems, claims a new study, suggesting that infertility may be a potential early warning sign of future heart trouble in men.
A decade-long US study of 135,000 men found that those who remained childless had a higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who "sowed their oats".
The researchers at Stanford University in California said their findings raised the possibility that infertility may be a potential early warning sign of future heart trouble.
"There is emerging evidence to suggest that infertility may be a window into a man`s later health," study leader Dr Michael Eisenberg was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
Dr Eisenberg said men who are infertile have a higher risk of certain cancers, and his team wanted to look for other signs that infertility might be playing a role later in a
The researchers, who reported their study in the journal Human Reproduction, followed more than 130,000 men who were retired and over 50 for a decade.
They restricted the list to men who were either married or had been married because they wanted to compare males who had the intent and the opportunity to have children.
Men with previous underlying diseases, such as stroke, heart disease or some related condition were excluded. Hence, the men in their list started off in relatively good health.
Over the course of the 10-year follow up period, some 10 percent of the men died, and one out of every five of these deaths was from heart disease.
When looking at the parental status of these men, those who were childless were found to have about 17 per cent higher risk of heart disease than those who were fathers.
Dr Eisenberg said it was not possible to determine whether men in the study simply chose not to have children or whether the men`s partners were infertile.
But excluding unmarried men offered an approximation of male infertility, and the link to heart disease raises important questions that merit further research.
"My belief it there is a biologic reason," Dr Eisenberg said.
The researchers stress that the study does not suggest being childless causes heart problems, but since infertility affects a man`s health at a much younger age, understanding this link could help doctors identify heart problems earlier, when there is more time to intervene.