MENTION of the word prostate can evoke fear as people either think cancer or the often feared cancer screening test, however, the lime-sized gland present in males plays an important role in body function and should be cared for.
The prostate, which is positioned between the bladder and penis and in front of the rectum, wraps around the tube (the urethra) through which urine passes to be excreted from the bladder and body. It plays an important role in sexual function, contributing about 30 per cent of fluid to the semen and contains important proteins for sperm health and reproductive function. It also has smooth muscle that has roles in continence (control of the passage of urine) and ejaculation. As a man gets older, the prostate continues to grow bigger and this may cause varying urinary symptoms in men – up to 25 per cent of men at age 50 and up to 50 per cent by age 60.
But, though its enlargement is largely thought to be inevitable, there are several measures that can be taken to maintain its health, reduce the risk of cancer, and help maintain good function of the prostate and 'front-end lifter'. Below I share six tips to help the men you love keep the prostate healthy.
1) Have a prostate-healthy diet with more veggies
More and more vegetables, not pasta. All too often, just a few vegetables are placed as decoration to the meal and when the question is asked, “Vegetables or pasta?”, pasta is usually the pick. A diet rich in green, leafy vegetables is important for a healthy prostate. Vitamins and antioxidants found in vegetables and fruits keep you and your prostate healthy. Try adding lettuce – romaine is among the most nutritious varieties – spinach, kale, and broccoli to your meals each day.
2) Reduce intake of red meat
Heavy consumption of red meat has been associated with PhIP, a chemical compound released when red meat is charred, which can cause an increased risk of prostate cancer. By eating red meat only on special occasions, you can reduce your risk. So less red meat, including beef, pork, lamb, and goat, and processed meats, such as bologna and hot dogs. Fish, skinless chicken, beans, and eggs are healthier sources of protein.
3) Less salt and sugar
Less sugar-sweetened sodas and fruit juices, which, believe it or not, usually contain quite a bit of sugar, and more water. Also compare labels and use foods with less sodium. This is important for overall health and reduces the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
4) Healthy fats and everything in moderation
Olive oil, nuts, and avocados are preferred. Limit saturated fats from dairy and other animal products. Avoid partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats), which are in many fast foods and packaged foods.
Regular exercise not only reduces your risk for heart disease and stroke and certain types of cancers, but studies have shown that it will also decrease the incidence of enlarged prostate symptoms, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), associated with even mild to moderate physical activity. Obesity is associated with more aggressive prostate cancer and poorer outcomes from treatment. Small studies have also shown improvement in symptoms from chronic prostatitis (chronic pelvic pain syndrome) with regular aerobic exercise. Added benefits of exercise include a reduced risk of erectile dysfunction, stress, and depression. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 to 4 times per week and make it a habit. You'll feel good, look better, and function better.
Recommendations for screening for prostate cancer are different depending on whether you are classified as low, moderate, or high risk. Jamaica does have a high-risk population and so early screening, beginning at age 40, is recommended. Men of African descent, increasing age, and family members with prostate cancer are amongst the risk factors. There are no signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer.
Keeping the prostate healthy is a lifestyle choice with a healthier diet and regular exercise as key ingredients. Don't forget to check in with your doctor or urologist if you have urinary symptoms – straining, dribbling, blood or burning on passing urine, frequent urination – or once you've reached 40 years. It's never too late to start this process and the best time to start, if you haven't paid attention yet, is now. Not only your prostate, but your entire body and loved ones will thank you as you'll give yourself a better chance of living your best life.
Dr Jeremy Thomas is a consultant urologist. He works privately in Montego Bay, Savanna-La-Mar, and Kingston and publicly at Cornwall Regional Hospital. He may be contacted on Facebook and Instagram : @jthomasurology or by e-mail: email@example.com