Thursday, May 08, 2008

It's the Sperm DNA that Collects Errors with Age and Exposure to Toxins

Dr Miriam
Todays health topic: The pros and cons of being an older dad

It's 28 years since Les Dennis held his last baby (son Philip, by his first wife Lynne). And judging by his tired demeanour, looking after 13-day-old Eleanor Grace has been a bit of a jolt.
A month ago, the 53-year-old comedian said he felt the happiest and most contented he'd ever been. But snapped earlier this week at a north London cafe, with baby Eleanor and fiancee Claire Nicholson, he looked totally worn out.
Some would argue that few men of Les's age have the energy to deal with a new baby. But there are now more older dads than ever - the average age of dads in the UK has increased from 29 to 32 since 1980.
But before becoming an older dad, here are a few points to weigh up first...

Reduced fertility
It's not just women whose fertility falls with age. In the US, tests on 100 healthy men aged 22 to 80 found that by the time a man is 40, 60 per cent of his sperm is unhealthy or abnormal compared to 25 per cent of that of a 22-year-old.
Although we're living longer than ever, the later you become a dad, the less likely you are to still be around into your offspring's middle age.
Health consequences

Babies of older dads are at greater risk of:
Autism-a 2006 US study reported that men aged 40 and over have a two-and-a-half times greater risk of fathering an autistic child than those under 30.
Schizophrenia - one in six cases of schizophrenia may have been due to having a father aged over 30, according to research published in the BMJ, and involving more than 700,000 people.
Alzheimer's - in a study involving more than 200 people with Alzheimer's, researchers at Munich University found that children born to older dads had a slightly higher risk of developing the condition.
The theory is that as we age, damage builds up in our DNA and this is passed on to a child. So the older the dad, the more time there has been for DNA damage to accumulate.
The upside
But it's not all doom and gloom. Research has also established that older dads tend to be more nurturing, affectionate and gentle.
One theory is that the calm approach of older dads is thought to be due to a drop in their testosterone levels And studies show that older dads are three times more likely to share in nappy changing, feeding, bath times, story reading and bedtimes.
Sure enough, Les showed his caring side when he interrupted his brunch with Claire to walk around the restaurant with Eleanor.
This is also good news for little Eleanor because many respected studies have shown that the children of involved dads do well in life - they have more confidence, higher self-esteem, greater sense of security and are better able to cope with stress.



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