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A Comprehensive Guide to Prostate Health

A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic

too busy to take care of his tools.

Spanish proverb

In the world of men’s health, the prostate tends to get a bad reputation. After all, it isn’t until something goes wrong that we tend to start paying attention to this area of the body. Yet, the prostate plays a crucial role in reproduction, and while serious conditions like prostate cancer may be caused in part by factors beyond a man’s control, there are many factors within his control that can boost prostate health at every age. In honor of Men’s Health Month this June, explore some need-to-know facts about prostate health with the following guide.

What is a Prostate?

The prostate is a small gland roughly the size of a walnut or golf ball. Its role is to produce the milky, thick component of semen. This nutrient-rich fluid helps to transport sperm during ejaculation, which is why prostate health is an essential aspect of men’s reproductive health.

The gland is located behind the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is also located near the upper area of the urethra, which transports urine from the bladder out of the body. Thus, when something goes wrong with the prostate, urination, sexual function, or both may be affected. 

The Importance of Optimal Prostate Function

Doctor discussing the importance of optimal prostate function with patient with visual assistance of prostate diagram on computer

By nature, the prostate gland tends to grow with age, making men more vulnerable to urinary and sexual health issues as they approach their middle ages and beyond. Optimal prostate function allows for both normal passing of urine as well as ejaculation. During ejaculation, the prostate contracts, inserting its fluid into the urethra. Sperm travels through the vas deferens, which carry sperm from the testes to the seminal vesicles. The seminal vesicles, which are attached to the prostate, add extra fluid to the semen before it is ejaculated.

Prostatic fluid makes up roughly 30% of semen and supports the lifespan and mobility of sperm. It is rich in zinc, citric acid, and enzymes, and its overall alkalinity protects sperm from the acidity of the vagina. Specific male hormones including dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone are required for proper prostate function. [1] When prostate issues arise, men may experience loss of sex drive, painful ejaculation, and other sexual issues.

Additionally, age-related prostate issues including urinary symptoms may appear as early as the 30s and 40s in some men. [2] Beyond enlargement caused by aging, however, there are other conditions which could affect prostate function. For instance, a tumor or infection could cause prostate enlargement. In the coming section, we’ll take a closer look at some of the conditions which can affect the prostate.

Conditions That Affect the Prostate

mature man discussing improving prostate health with urologist in doctor’s office

There are three main conditions which can affect the prostate, most of which are quite common. Here’s a closer look at each.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the development of cancerous cells, including tumors, within the prostate. It is the second-most common form of cancer in American men, trailing only skin cancer. Roughly 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his life, with 60% of cases occurring in men above the age of 65. While it can be serious, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from the condition. In fact, nearly 3 million U.S. men are still alive today after surviving the disease. [3]

During its earliest stages, prostate cancer may not exhibit any signs or symptoms. It’s for this reason that regular visits with your doctor are so critical. Through both in-office exams and advanced diagnostics, prostate cancer can be identified earlier than ever before.

With that said, more than half of all U.S. men have some form of cancer in the prostate by the age of 80, and in some cases, the disease may never become a serious threat. In these instances, the approach of “watchful waiting” may be used, which involves close monitoring and treating the cancer only if and when it’s needed. Prostate cancer tends to grow very slowly, and cell changes may not develop for decades. [4]  

By the time symptoms appear, however, cancer treatment is likely needed. Difficulty urinating, frequent urges to urinate, blood in the urine or semen, weak or interrupted urine stream, and persistent pain in the pelvis, hips, or back may be signs of prostate cancer. Depending on its stage, prostate cancer may be treated through surgery, radiation, or hormone therapy, among other treatments. 

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

As mentioned above, the prostate may enlarge with age. The medical term for this condition is benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Roughly 75% of men over the age of 60 experience BPH to some degree. [5] Although having BPH does not increase a man’s risk for developing prostate cancer, its symptoms can closely mimic the disease. For instance, the enlargement of the gland can cause difficulty urinating, interrupted urine flow, and the urge to pass urine frequently.

As a man ages, the prostate can grow significantly, potentially increasing from the size of a walnut to a lemon by the age of 60. While there is currently no cure for BPH, it can be managed through medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes. [6]

Prostatitis

Another noncancerous condition of the prostate is prostatitis, or inflammation of the gland. The condition can be caused from a bacterial infection and impacts at least 50% of men at some stage of their lives. It does not increase the risk for developing prostate cancer, but again, may trigger similar symptoms.

Painful ejaculation, loss of sex drive, rectal pressure, pain in the groin or lower belly, difficulty urinating, and lower body aches are all potential symptoms of prostatitis. In other cases, it may never produce symptoms but may be picked up on tests such as a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. Treatments may include antibiotics, lifestyle adjustments, or other therapies. [7]

While prostate conditions may not always be preventable, there are measures you can take to boost prostate function and overall health, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

How to Improve Prostate Health

mature man jogging in city

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a prostate condition or you’re simply seeking ways to improve prostate health, there are many lifestyle changes you can adopt to boost prostate wellness. Here are a few key tactics to bear in mind.

Follow a Healthy Diet

The verdict is still out on whether specific foods can improve prostate function, so experts instead recommend following overall healthy eating patterns. This includes eating plenty of vegetables and fruit, especially those with deep or bright colors. Healthy fats such as nuts, avocadoes, and olive oil should be prioritized, while saturated fats should be enjoyed in moderation.

Avoid trans fats, found in fried and packaged foods, altogether. In fact, processed foods should be avoided or minimized to support overall health and reduced disease risk. Good sources of protein include fish, eggs, and skinless poultry. Starchy products like bread, pasta, and cereals should also be minimized. At the very least, be sure to choose whole-grain or whole wheat varieties over white, heavily processed options. [8]

Exercise Regularly

Beyond eating well, men should also make regular physical activity a priority for prostate health. In Harvard Medical School’s Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, researchers observed an inverse relationship between exercise and BPH. Men who regularly performed even low-intensity activities, including taking regular walks, experienced better prostate health.

The study also indicated a link between reduced likelihood of erectile dysfunction and regular exercise. Specifically, men who worked out for an hour and a half to three hours each week were 20% less likely to develop erectile dysfunction compared to sedentary men. Finally, men with chronic prostatitis noticed an improvement in symptoms when practicing aerobic exercise after previously leading sedentary lifestyles. [9]

Importance of Prostate Health – In Conclusion

Ultimately, improving prostate health aligns closely with the tactics needed to boost overall wellness at every age, which is precisely where Cenegenics excels. As experts in wellness optimization, our clinical team provides patients with the tools they need to feel their best both now and years into the future.

With advanced clinical testing, our highly-trained health optimization professionals can spot signs or risk of disease far earlier than most other traditional practices would. If you’re interested in seeing how Cenegenics can help you defy your age and achieve and maintain the healthiest possible version of yourself, contact your nearest location today.

Next Steps to Improving Prostate Health

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Key Resources

This guide was produced with contributions from the following key resources: 

The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation  

The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 1: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy

Click to purchase

The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation  

The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 2: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy

Click to purchase

Textbook Authors:

Jeffrey Park Leake, M.D., CPT

Dr. Jeffrey Park Leake is a Partner and Director of Education at Cenegenics Elite Health specializing in age management and wellness. Having trained hundreds of physicians worldwide, Dr. Leake is also the Director of Education for the Clinical Strategies for Healthy Aging course at AMM Educational Foundation.

Todd David Greenberg, M.D., CSCS

Dr. Todd Greenberg is a practicing physician with a broad range of expertise, including wellness, exercise, sports injuries, and MRI of sports injuries. He is a Radiology Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington.

References

[1] Murrell, Daniel, MD. “What is the prostate gland?” Medical News Today. Retrieved from URL: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319859.php

[2] National Cancer Institute. “Understanding Prostate Changes: A Health Guide for Men.” Retrieved from URL: https://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/understanding-prostate-changes

[3] American Cancer Society. “Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer,” 8 Jan. 2019. Retrieved from URL: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

[4] National Cancer Institute; see above.

[5] Harvard Health Publishing. “Prostate Health & Disease.” Retrieved from URL: https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/prostate-health-and-disease

[6] National Cancer Institute; see above.

[7] National Cancer Institute; see above.

[8] Harvard Health Publishing. “10 diet & exercise tips for prostate health.” Retrieved from URL: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/10-diet-and-exercise-tips-for-prostate-health

[9] Harvard Health Publishing. “10 diet & exercise tips for prostate health;” see above.

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