Prostate Health is far from trivial when discussing men’s health, especially for those who are aged 50 and above. It determines a man’s fertility and can pose major health problems if not well taken care of. The prostate is hardly noticeable during the early and mid-stages of a man’s life, but as he grows older and slowly approaches 50, the prostate may start to present some problems.
WHAT IS THE PROSTATE?
Scientists and medical experts describe the prostate as a gland found in the male reproductive system located between the bladder and penis that looks like the size of a walnut. The prostate produces a fluid called prostatic fluid that combines with sperm cells and seminal vesicle fluid to add volume to the semen, about 30% of semen is made up of prostatic fluid. It also protects the sperm and keeps it alive.
During ejaculation, the prostate seals the opening between the bladder and the urethra before secreting the prostatic fluid into the urethra. The prostatic fluid contains an enzyme called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) that lessens the thick consistency of semen to enable sperm to move through it at a faster speed which in turn aids easy fertilization. The prostate gland plays a vital role in male fertility.
THE PROSTATE AT AGE 50
The risk of developing prostate-related illnesses usually increases as a man grows older usually due to the enlargement of the prostate and other factors. Two of the most common prostate-related illnesses associated with men aged 50 and above are Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP) and prostate cancer. Another prostate-related disease is
BENIGN PROSTATIC HYPERPLASIA
The prostate gland in men naturally begins to increases in size starting from the mid-twenties, which causes this enlargement is still unknown. As a man grows older, this enlargement can result in a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) which is common in men aged 50 and above.
Symptoms of BHP in Men
BHP is characterized by :
- frequent and urgent trips to the bathroom especially at night
- urinary incontinence
- Pushing or straining to urinate
- Weak urine flow
- A sensation of not emptying the bladder completely
What Causes BHP in Men?
BHP majorly occurs due to the location of the prostate gland in the male body which is positioned near the bladder and the urethra. As the prostate grows bigger, it compresses the urethra whose function is to transport urine from the bladder to the penis. The enlarged prostate suppresses the function of the urethra which results in the symptoms of BHP.
Other factors that may influence the development of the condition include, increasing levels of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in aging men, genetic and family history, poor diet, and Body Mass Index(an unhealthy body weight).
prostate cancer is a common occurrence in men aged 50 and above, it rarely develops in men under 50. Cancer grows gradually and is highly treatable when detected early or while still confined to the prostate gland before it spreads to other parts of the body. prostate cancer is the most prevalent cancer among men.
The American Cancer Society in 2019 predicted that about 1 in 9 males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, but only about 1 out of 41 will die from the disease because of it’s high response to treatment when detected early.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
prostate cancer is mostly asymptomatic during the early stages and it may only be detected through a screening that looks at the levels of PSA in the blood. High levels of PSA may indicate the presence of cancerous cells. When symptoms arise, they are usually presented as :
- Frequent urination (especially at night)
- Urine hesitancy (difficulties starting and maintaining the flow of urine)
- Pain that occurs when urinating
- Blood in semen or urine
- Pain while sitting
- Erectile dysfunction
In severe cases, weight loss, fatigue, swollen legs or feet, irregular bowel movements, back pain, and bone fracture may be recorded.
What Causes Prostate Cancer?
Prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) is the major reason why prostate cancer occurs in men. PINs are precancerous or cancerous cells that form in the prostate gland. They are commonly found in men aged 50 and above.
The American Cancer Society reports that nearly 50% of men aged 50 and above have PINs. These cells may form initially as non-cancerous cells and then proceed to become cancerous. Asides the age factor, other factors that may influence the development of prostate cancer aside age includes ethnicity (more common in black males), smoking, genetic and family history, obesity, diet, and environmental factors.
MAINTAINING A GOOD PROSTATE HEALTH AT 50
It is clear that it is important to keep the prostate healthy at all times to avoid developing prostate-related illnesses. It is especially imperative to focus on prostate health at Age 50 and above because one is more prone to prostate-related diseases at this age. Below are some tips to help you maintain a healthy prostate and reduce your risk of developing any of the illnesses associated with an aging prostate.
ROUTINE CHECKS ARE IMPORTANT
While It is possible you may not develop any symptoms associated with a growing prostate, it is necessary you keep track of your prostate by going for routine medical check-ups. Make sure to provide your doctor with all necessary information regarding your family’s medical history so he can evaluate your chances of getting prostate associated illnesses.
Your doctor will also conduct a PSA screening to check for the levels of PSA in your blood, high levels may indicate the possibility of cancer,but it doesn’t always mean cancer is present. If high levels of PSA are detected on the first screening, your doctor will ask you to come back for a follow-up treatment, and if the PSA level is still high, he might order a biopsy test to check your tissue for cancerous cells. High PSA levels may also indicate an impending BHP occurrence.
A number of studies have linked smoking with the risk of developing all kinds of cancer including prostate cancer. Nicotine from cigarettes contains harmful toxins and free radicals that might put your prostate at risk of developing cancer. Make a conscious and dedicated effort to stop smoking completely. Quitting smoking is not only beneficial to your prostate health but to your overall health as well.
BAD – FAT FOODS ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS.
While It may be tempting to eat that roasted beef or grab that french fries on your way to work, you should remember that you are not doing your prostate or body any good by giving in to your cravings. High-fat foods containing trans fat (bad fats) can make you develop BHP or prostate cancer if you don’t cut them off.
Beef and dairy products are particularly connected to the development of BHP. Your age is already a risk factor, so you sure don’t want to complicate matters. Trans-fat foods include fried foods, stick or tub margarine, cookies, crackers, baked foods, fast foods and a large percentage of junk foods. You should also cut back on foods and drinks containing caffeine.
ZINC AND TOMATOES ARE GOOD FOR YOU
Zinc is crucial for maintaining a balance between DHT and testosterone levels in the blood which usually fluctuates as you grow older. The prostate itself contains a large amount of zinc which it needs to carry out its functions.
Eating foods rich in zinc can encourage your prostate to function properly and protect it against cancerous growth. Some foods rich in zinc include pumpkin seeds, oysters, beans, spinach, nuts, whole grains, and Chickpeas.
You may want to consider zinc supplementation, but research is still lacking as to the benefits of zinc supplements to prostate health and some studies have even linked the long-term use of zinc supplements with an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. If you must take zinc supplements, it is best to take low and moderate doses
The antioxidant found in tomatoes called lycopene has been found to be active against prostate cancer cells. Cooked tomatoes, in particular, have abundant amounts of lycopene. So stock up on tomatoes and start cooking. Also, the next time you are at a restaurant be sure to order foods containing tomatoes.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Your prostate doesn’t like you sitting around all day doing nothing at this age. It wants you to move your body as often as you can through exercise and physical activities. Performing exercises targeted at relaxing the pelvic floor muscles such as kegel exercise can help increase blood flow around the urogenital region which helps in reducing the urinary symptoms associated with BHP.
Men who sit around all day without engaging in any form of physical activity or exercise are bound to develop BHP or prostate cancer. If you have BHP, exercise can also help you reduce your urination frequency at night (nocturia) . Exercise can also help you maintain healthy body weight and BMI. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing prostate cancer.
STOCK UP ON SOY
Soy food products like tofu, soy milk, and the likes may just be able to protect you against prostate cancer. They contain isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, and glycitein). These isoflavones work against the growth of cancerous cells in the prostate. Research is still inconclusive, but it is assumed that soy can help prevent prostate cancer and it may also reduce PSA levels in men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Ensure to include soy foods in your diet.
STAY AWAY FROM ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICALS
The infamous bisphenol-A (BPA), parabens, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), certain red dyes, some food preservatives, insecticides, and pesticides all belong to a group of chemicals called xenoestrogens that can interfere with the functions of the endocrine system. They can also increase the risk of developing prostate cancer and BPH in men.
These compounds are widespread in the environment. BPA, for instance, is found in commonly available plastic products like food storage containers. Phthalate and paraben are common ingredients in cleaning agents.
Most packaged foods contain food preservatives that may or may not be harmful. To avoid exposure to these harmful chemicals, be wary of using plastic containers and opt for products made out of glass instead. Check out for paraben and phthalate-free labels on cleaning products. If you can, buy only organic foods or foods from a reliable source.
TRY TO MANAGE STRESS
Stress can be awfully detrimental to your overall well-being and your prostate health is not an exception. Stress can exacerbate symptoms of urinary disturbances associated with both BHP and cancer. Being diagnosed with either BHP or cancer can lead to a heightened level of stress and mood disturbances.
To prevent further damage to your prostate because of stress, it is important to adopt stress management strategies. Engage in yoga and meditation activities, go on vacations, explore nature, spend quality time with friends and family, read books or watch comedy movies. Just do whatever works for you, whatever helps boost your mood and calms you. The bottom line is “don’t stress it”.