As a man, you know you have one, but until you reach a certain age you probably never think about your prostate. That’s because when other parts of the body stop growing by the age of 25, the prostate is likely to gradually enlarge, beginning around age 40. And eventually, this prostate enlargement can lead to more frequent trips to the bathroom.
The prostate is a walnut-sized, male reproductive gland. The prostate’s main purpose is to help produce fluids that nourish sperm and form the key components of semen.
Part of the prostate gland comprises the prostatic urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. As men age, the prostate can grow from the size of a walnut up to the size of a baseball due to a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This enlargement can put pressure on the prostatic urethra and impact urination by restricting the flow of urine which backs up and presses on the bladder, triggering more frequent signals to the brain that it’s time to urinate. While BPH is a common cause of urinary issues in men, it is imperative to see your doctor if you experience symptoms to rule out a more serious condition.
A Common Issue
BPH becomes increasingly more common as men age. It is estimated to affect about half of men 50-60 years of age and up to 90% of men over 80.
Collectively, the symptoms of BPH are referred to as lower urinary tract symptoms, or LUTS, and include:
- Frequent urination, day and night
- Trouble starting a urine stream or making more than a dribble
- A weak stream of urine that is slow or stops and starts several times
- The feeling that you still have to go, even just after urinating
While these lower urinary tract symptoms are common, they can be a nuisance and a source of embarrassment that negatively impact a man’s quality of life. Fortunately, there are lifestyle choices you can make to better support your prostate and urinary function.
Maintaining Overall Prostate Health
While the chances are high that you may experience lower urinary tract symptoms as you age, here are 5 things you can do to support your overall prostate and urinary function.
- Take care of your health and get regular checkups. Most insurance companies cover the cost of an annual medical checkup. Make sure to discuss any urinary changes you experience as well as your family history with your healthcare professional. Preventative care is a valuable way to maintain your health and wellbeing.
- Maintain a balanced diet. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health advises eating more vegetables that are important sources of antioxidants, like broccoli, beans, and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and lettuce. In addition, an article by Harvard Health recommends limiting consumption of red meats, dairy, and fast foods, as well as choosing healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts, to help maintain a healthy weight which reduces prostate health risks.
Other foods that may support healthy prostate function include those that contain lycopene, like tomatoes, watermelon, and guava.
Maintain a healthy weight. This may have multiple health benefits, including reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Some evidence suggests that having a higher BMI may increase the risk of BPH.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and BPH, among other benefits, according to Harvard Health. Specifically, a very large, ongoing observational study of 30,000 men, called the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, found that the more men exercised, the fewer symptoms of BPH they experienced. Even low- to moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking regularly at a moderate pace, yielded benefits. As a side note, the same study also showed that men who exercise regularly were 20% less likely to experience erectile dysfunction.
- Consider supplementing your diet. For instance, if your diet is lacking in certain nutrients or you live in an area that gets limited sunshine, you may consider supplementing your diet with vitamin D. A study of 4,770 men found that supplementing your diet with vitamin D may help decrease the risk of developing BPH.
You may also want to consider other natural supplements to support your overall prostate health. The most studied prostate supplement is saw palmetto oil extract, which is widely used around the world. 320 mg is the established amount of a quality saw palmetto oil extract that has been demonstrated to be beneficial.With the prevalence of conditions like BPH increasing with age, maintaining your overall prostate health is a priority you don't want to overlook. Having a better understanding of your prostate and how BPH progresses as you age can make a big difference in the decisions you make concerning your health. To learn more about prostate health, click here.