If you’re a man, chances are you’ll experience prostate problems at some point in your life.
The prostate gland is small, but it plays a big role in the male reproductive system: it helps make semen, the fluid that transports sperm.
Prostate problems begin for men as they age – sometimes as early as in their 30s. The gland becomes enlarged and begins to press against the bladder and urethra, restricting urine flow. The prostate is normally about the size of a walnut. But, in an older man, an enlarged gland can grow to the size of a lemon.
Many men in their 40s and 50s are familiar with the symptoms: increased trips to the bathroom at night, less urine flow, an urgent need to pass urine, or a burning sensation during urination.
These symptoms most likely signal one of three prostate conditions: inflammation (also known as prostatitis), an enlarged prostate (known as BPH or benign prostatic hyperplasia) or prostate cancer. Fortunately, these conditions often take many years to become a significant lifestyle hindrance.
Medical experts emphasize these prostate changes don’t always indicate prostate cancer. However, it is the most common cancer in American men besides skin cancer. One man in six will get prostate cancer during his lifetime. In 2012, 241,000 men were diagnosed with the disease and more than 28,000 died from it.
But there is a silver lining for those who get the diagnosis. Prostate cancer is highly survivable because it is slow-growing and can be detected early.
If You Experience Symptoms, Get Checked Out
Most men can expect to experience the effects of BPH at some point as they age. BPH, which is a benign condition, shares similar symptoms with prostate cancer. That’s why it’s important for men to visit their Providence primary care provider should they experience changes in their urinary patterns.
These symptoms often point to BPH:
- Weak or slow urine stream
- Straining to start a urine stream
- Stopping and starting several times while passing urine
- An urgent need to pass urine
- Sensing your bladder has not fully emptied
While BPH can’t be cured, it can be controlled by drugs or surgery. For many men with mild symptoms, however, health care providers will instead conduct “watchful waiting.” This involves patients getting annual checkups and tests.
Tips for Alleviating Symptoms
If you fall into the “watchful waiting” category, you can lessen your symptoms by following these steps:
- Empty your bladder completely when urinating.
- Forego liquids after dinner, especially alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
- Don’t wait to use the bathroom.
Talk with your primary care provider about the medications you’re taking. They may make your BPH symptoms worse. Antihistamines, tranquilizers, blood-pressure and antidepressant medications may contribute to your condition.
Help Keep Your Prostate Healthy
If you aren’t experiencing prostate issues, you can stay ahead of the game by following these simple lifestyle changes that contribute to a healthy prostate.
- Avoid smoking.
- Exercise regularly and stay at a healthy weight.
- Load up on vegetables and fruits at the dinner table. Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and papaya contain the antioxidant lycopene, which may help prevent prostate cancer. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale also are beneficial.
- Soy in your diet from tofu, soy nuts or soy flour is believed to contribute to good prostate health.
- Stay faithful to a diet low in fat. Studies show a high-fat diet may not cause prostate cancer, but it could speed its progression.
- Most important, communicate with your Providence primary care provider – especially if you notice urinary changes or if you have a family history of prostate cancer. Your provider might decide it makes sense for you to have a yearly PSA blood test and digital rectal exam beginning as early as age 45.
Providence Can Help
Do you have a primary care provider? Our providers are experts in prostate health, find one today.