Found only in men, the prostate is a small gland surrounding the urethra—the ‘tube’ that carries urine out of the body. It produces a white fluid that combines with sperm to create semen. As men age, the risk of developing prostate conditions increases; it can sometimes become swollen by conditions such as prostate enlargement, prostatitis and prostate cancer. Although some conditions cannot be prevented through lifestyle changes, there are a few self-care measures individuals can take to safeguard their prostate’s health for as long as possible.
Fruits and vegetables are sources of essential antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals and can carry anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Maximise your intake for a balanced, healthy diet.
Diet can directly affect cancer risk. Limit your intake of processed and red meat as well as salt-preserved foods. Individuals are recommended to incorporate foods high in fibre—as well as at least five portions of fruits and vegetables per day—into their regime.
There have been numerous studies on the effects of specific foods and compounds on the prostate. A study in 2013 found that men with a high concentration of omega 3 in their blood are more likely to develop prostate cancer. Research by the Mayo Clinic has also linked dairy products—or diets high in calcium—to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Additionally, low folate levels in the blood may also be linked to prostate conditions. Do your research and speak with a doctor before making drastic changes to your diet.
It’s imperative that individuals complete the government-advised 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. In addition to strengthening the heart, exercise can also help individuals stay within appropriate weight brackets. Vary your exercise routine and try a combination of walking, running, cycling and swimming.
There is a strong link between obesity and many types of cancer—including aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Avoiding gaining excess weight is important to lowering cancer risk as well as reducing the risk of other chronic diseases.
Alcohol consumption should be limited to government guidelines of no more than 14 units per week for men and women. However, recent research suggests there is no real ‘safe’ amount of alcohol individuals can drink without increasing their risk of ill health conditions. Smoking is one of the biggest killers—quitting is advised in any circumstance. Prostate cancer patients who smoke are more likely to have a recurrence of the disease as well as a higher risk of dying from the condition.
Multiple studies have suggested there is a link between animal fats and an increased risk of prostate cancer. These are found in animal meats and products such as lard, butter and cheese. Replace these animal fats with their plant-based counterparts for a healthier diet.
Know the signs
It’s important to know the symptoms and signs of prostate conditions. Talk to your doctor about your risk of developing these diseases, as well as what medical tests you should undergo, any relevant family history and dietary and lifestyle recommendations. Consult with your doctor as soon as possible if you experience discomfort in your pelvic area, difficulty urinating, blood in your urine or blood in your semen.
The three offenders
Prostate enlargement. A common condition associated with ageing, a swollen prostate affects more than one in three men over 50. Although it’s not connected with prostate cancer, it can cause discomfort and difficulty urinating. Some symptoms to look out for include: a weak flow of urine, straining when peeing, needing to pee more frequently, feeling like you’re not able to fully empty your bladder. The condition can be treated with medication and—in severe cases—surgery.
Prostatitis. Sometimes caused by a bacterial infection, prostatitis is where the prostate gland becomes inflamed. Although it can happen at any age, men between the ages of 30 and 50 are more susceptible to it. Some symptoms include: pain in the pelvis and genitals, pain when urinating, a frequent need to pee, pain when ejaculating and pain in the perineum. Prostatitis can be treated with painkillers and alpha-blockers.
Prostate cancer. According to NHS Choices, this type of cancer is the most common type of cancer in men, with more than 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It mainly affects men over 65 and is more common among men of African-Caribbean and African descent and people with a family history of the disease. Its symptoms are similar to those caused by prostate enlargement; they include: needing to rush to the toilet, blood in urine or semen, straining or taking a long time while peeing, and difficulty starting to pee.
This article was originally published in Live to 100 with Dr Hilary Jones. Read the digital edition, here.