June is Men’s Heath Month! Understandably, this may have come as a surprise to us all. Men’s health often takes a backseat to other concerns, and June is much more synonymous with the arrival of summer and the conclusion of school. So while we’re tie shopping for Father’s Day, let us also investigate important health’s issues related to our fellow men. Today, it’s the Prostate.
First, let’s refresh ourselves on what exactly a prostate is:
The prostate is a gland, shaped like a walnut, which is an essential part of the male reproductive system. Its main function is to provide the necessary medium for reproductive fluids. Imagine for a second, the railroad switch that shifts one operational train track to another. That shifting of tracks encapsulates the second function of the prostate, which controls the emission of either urine or reproductive fluids from the body.
All caught up? Good.
There are two major issues that arise from the prostate as men age: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and Prostate Cancer.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, or BPH, occurs when the prostate becomes enlarged, but is ultimately not cancerous (hence benign). Although it is not cancerous, BPH still arrives with a series of complications. Also, it’s absurdly common! BPH is estimated to affect 50% of men between the ages of 51 to 60. The incidence spikes to a whopping 90% of men older than 80. Statistically speaking, if you are fortunate enough to live a long healthy life as a male, it’s only a matter of time before your prostate tries to sabotage your happiness. The symptoms that come with BPH include: urination eight or more times a day, the inability to start or stop urination, weak urination, pain from urination, and smelly urination. Gross. Further complications that also arise include: urinary retention, infections, and damage to the bladder and kidneys. BPH is most commonly treated with medications such as Flomax and Uroxatral, and in serious cases can be surgically repaired. (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2014)
In the world of Epidemiology, there exists research that suggests patterns in the occurrence of BPH in men. For example, men from Southeast Asia have exhibited significantly lower rates of enlarged prostates than men from anywhere else. Further genetic studies show that 50% of men with BPH conditions severe enough for surgery under the age of 60 most likely inherited the disease from an immediate family member. The overall health statuses of men are important to consider. Men with heart disease or diabetes of either type are significantly more likely to develop BPH. As is the story with most diseases, the overall health of an individual is important, and many organ systems you would not consider connected, in fact are. As a matter of fact, consistent physical activity and exercise has been strongly linked to a decrease in severe BPH symptoms that require surgical correction. Looking ahead to other potential methods of prevention, while no diet exists, some initial studies have shown positive associations with serum testosterone treatments and decreased BPH incidence. (Patel and Parsons, 2015)
While BPH is more common and an annoyance, Prostate Cancer, as one might imagine, is far more dangerous. Prostate Cancer is the second most common cancer against American Men, estimated at about a quarter of a million new cases a year and resulting in over 27 thousand deaths. Similarly to BPH, prostate cancer affects older men, but instead of striking most men in their fifties, the cancer occurs primarily after the age of 65. About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. While ultimately a serious matter, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer ultimately survive the disease. Today, almost 3 million men in America who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive. (American Cancer Society, 2015)
Of course, we would still all like to avoid prostate cancer, if possible. The Prostate Cancer Foundation offers these tips on prostate cancer prevention:
- Eat fewer calories or exercise more so that you maintain a healthy weight.
- Try to keep the amount of fat you get from red meat and dairy products to a minimum.
- Watch your calcium intake. Do not take supplemental doses far above the recommended daily allowance. Some calcium is OK, but avoid taking more than 1,500 mg of calcium a day.
- Eat more fish – evidence from several studies suggest that fish can help protect against prostate cancer because they have “good fat” particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid trans fatty acids (found in margarine).
- Try to incorporate cooked tomatoes that are cooked with olive oil, which has also been shown to be beneficial, and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) into many of your weekly meals. Soy and green tea are also potential dietary components that may be helpful.
- Avoid smoking for many reasons. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Seek medical treatment for stress, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression. Treating these conditions may save your life and will improve your survivorship with prostate cancer
- What about supplements? Avoid over-supplementation with megavitamins. Too many vitamins, especially folate, may “fuel the cancer”, and while a multivitamin is not likely to be harmful, if you follow a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils you likely do not even need a multivitamin.
- Relax and enjoy life. Reducing stress in the workplace and home will improve your survivorship and lead to a longer, happier life.
- Finally, eating all of the broccoli in the world does not take away your risk of having prostate cancer right now. If you are age 50 or over, if you are age 40 or over and African-American or have a family history of prostate cancer, you need more than a good diet can guarantee. You should consider a yearly rectal examination and PSA test, and you should discuss the risks and benefits of these screening procedures with your doctor.
Bottom-line, we men need to be aware of the potential ticking time bombs inside each of us. While researches continue to explore new treatments and therapies, we can each control our diets, amount of exercise and general attitudes towards protecting our health. Also, do not forget to be truthful with yourself about symptoms and be sure to be open and honest with your doctors. As is the case with any malady, early detection can be helpful in treatment. Some studies suggest we in America may screen for prostate cancer too frequently, but if you notice symptoms, contact your primary care physician. Stay in tune with your body and seek the best health status for yourself.
For more updates and tips on how to use fitness for diabetes management and prevention. Follow me on twitter @roycHealth
American Cancer Society. “What are the key statistics about Prostate Cancer?”. (2015). Web
Prostate Cancer Foundation “Understanding Prostate Cancer: Prevention.” (2015). Web.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). “Prostate Enlargement: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia.” NIH 14-3012 (2014). Web.
Patel ND, Parsons JK. Epidemiology and etiology of benign prostatic hyperplasia and bladder outlet obstruction. Indian J Urol. 2014 Apr;30(2):170-6. doi: 10.4103/0970-1591.126900. PubMed PMID: 24744516; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3989819.