We Should Be Talking More About Prostate Health: Here's How to Start the Conversation
We get it. There are just some things that are hard, even awkward, to talk about.
One of those things is your prostate.
But this topic is just as important as topics like heart health, weight loss, and stress management. That’s why we’re shedding light on why prostate health matters, things to look out for, and what you can do to maintain a healthy prostate as you age.
What is a Prostate, and What Does It Do?
Just under your bladder and in front of your rectum, your prostate is a small gland about the size of a ping-pong ball. This rubbery gland helps your body produce seminal fluid that guides and protects the sperm that is produced in the testes (1). While you don’t need this glad to survive, it is important for reproduction.
Your prostate naturally gets larger as you age. In some cases, the growth causes discomfort, pain, and other problems.
Symptoms of Prostate Problems
After the age of 50, you might hear conversations about prostate health. And the older you get, the more you might start to notice certain changes in your body, especially when it comes to your bathroom habits.
How do you know if your prostate is ok, and when do you know there’s a problem? Some signs that you may have a problem with your prostate include (2):
- Going to the bathroom more often, especially at night
- A burning sensation while urinating
- Trace of blood in urine or semen
- Urine dribbling
- Pain during ejaculating or urinating
- Feeling stiff or pain in your pelvis, upper thighs, rectum, or lower back
If you notice any of these symptoms last longer than a few days, contact your doctor to schedule an exam. A digital rectal exam or bloodwork may be performed to see if there are any indicators of a more serious problem.
What would those problems be? The biggest concern is often prostate cancer. When the cells in the prostate grow out of control, tumors form. Usually, this type of cancer is slow-growing, and may not be a problem until 10, 20, or even 30 years after cell changes begin (3).
Treatment for prostate cancer will depend on what stage it’s in. In cases where the tumor is small, the only thing you may need to do is keep an eye on it. If the tumor is more severe, treatment options might include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, medication, immunotherapy, and supportive care (4).
In other cases, your symptoms may not be cancerous at all. Sometimes the problem is:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): Also called benign prostatic hypertrophy or benign prostatic obstruction, this is simply an enlargement of the prostate. The prostate undergoes two growth cycles: one during puberty, and another after the age of 25. While a slow process, eventually the prostate can grow so large it presses up against the bladder wall. This leads to the wall weakening, which is where urinary compilations enter the scene. Treatments involve lifestyle changes, medications, or minimally invasive surgeries (8).
- Acute bacterial prostatitis: This type of infection is caused by bacteria and can occur at any age. In addition to painful urination, you might develop a fever and chills. Treatments typically consist of antibiotics, rest, and supportive care (5).
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis: This is when the acute bacterial infection doesn’t go away, even with weeks of antibiotics. About 5% of the men who contract acute bacterial prostatitis will progress to chronic bacterial prostatitis (6). Treatments of this type involve a longer course of antibiotics, sometimes up to 12 weeks.
- Chronic prostatitis: This term refers to an ongoing inflammation that causes prostate pain lasting longer than 3 months, even if there’s no active infection. This can happen when there was once a bacterial infection and have the potential to cause nerve damage (7). Treatments may include warm baths, warm compresses, physical therapy to strengthen pelvic muscles, biofeedback, phytotherapy, or acupuncture.
How to Improve Prostate Health
Taking care of your body can help you live a long and healthy life, and one of the biggest villains contributing to health problems is inflammation. Thankfully, there are things you can do to reduce inflammation levels in your body, lowering your chances of having to deal with prostate problems.
Here are the top tips you can implement today to improve your prostate health:
Focus on Healthy Foods
If inflammation is the enemy, then foods that are high in antioxidants are the heroes in this narrative. Our founder Dr. Kara recommends that you:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables – the more colorful, the better. Aim for at least five servings each day (12).
- Go easy on the red meat – processed varieties can be high in saturated fat. Aim for leaner protein options like fish, beans, and eggs.
- Lower your salt – add fresh herbs to your dishes for a fun twist and antioxidant benefits. Some of the best include turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and oregano (13).
- Pick whole-grain pasta, cereals, and bread over processed, white bread that’s high in sugar and stripped of nutrients.
- Reduce your sugar intake – it’s one of the leading causes of inflammation in the body (10). Consider honey, molasses, or monk fruit sweetener as alternatives.
- Add more healthy fats – olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, and nuts are great ways to get more of the good fats into your body.
Aim to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. You can walk down the block, start a small garden, stretch in the morning, or attend an aerobic or weight-lifting class.
The goal with regular exercise isn’t 6-pack abs. Staying active helps improve circulation, heart health, clearer thinking, and lower stress levels (11).
Lower Stress Levels
Stress tells your body to pump out cortisol, which causes inflammation and ages your body (9). Listening to calming music, spending time in nature, practicing gratitude, and deep-breathing techniques can bring you into the present, lower your heart rate, and reduce inflammation.
Prostate health is important and should be talked about more. It may not be the easiest conversation to have, but once you become more informed about how things work, you become more empowered to make positive changes.
Focusing on antioxidant-rich foods, staying active, and keeping your stress levels in check are some of the best preventative measures. Getting screenings and talking with your doctor about any pain or problems you have can help identify prostate issues early on.
And as always, it is best to consult your medical professional right away to determine what is best for you and your health needs.
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References & Disclaimer
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author