Doctors’ Note – June 2024

Men’s Health Month: Prostate

Understanding Prostate Health: A Guide for Men

Prostate health is a critical aspect of men’s health that often goes overlooked until problems arise. By understanding common prostate issues and adopting a proactive approach to maintaining prostate health, men can significantly reduce their risk of prostate problems and maintain a high quality of life as they age.

Common prostate conditions

As men age, the prostate can become enlarged due to a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). An enlarged prostate presses on the urethra, causing difficulties with urination like a weak stream, dribbling, urgency and getting up frequently at night. BPH is not cancer and can be treated with medication, surgery or other therapies.

Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate, which can be either bacterial or non-bacterial. It can cause painful urination, pelvic pain and flu-like symptoms (with bacterial prostatitis). Treatments include antibiotics for bacterial prostatitis and anti-inflammatory medications and other treatments for non-bacterial forms.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. Many prostate cancers grow slowly and remain confined to the prostate, but some are aggressive and spread quickly. Early prostate cancer often has no symptoms, which is why screening is important, usually with a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam. Treatment depends on age, general health, risk factors – such as a close relative who has had prostate cancer – and cancer stage.

Maintaining prostate health

Fortunately, there are many proactive steps you can take to help keep your prostate healthy and ensure any problems are detected early:

  • Get regular screenings – Early detection can help you avoid more serious issues. Because there are benefits, risks and uncertainties associated with screening, the American Cancer Society recommends starting conversations with your doctor at:
    • Age 50 if you are at average risk of prostate cancer
    • Age 45 if you’re at high risk, including Black men and men who have a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65
    • Age 40 for men who have a relative with prostate cancer at an early age
  • Maintain a healthy weight with a balanced diet and exercise – Obesity is linked to an increased risk of prostate problems. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins in your diet. Foods rich in antioxidants like berries and tomatoes, and omega-3 fatty acids in foods like salmon and flaxseed, are particularly beneficial. Exercise regularly, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, along with strength training exercises.
  • Stay hydrated to flush out toxins and support urinary health. Drink at least eight glasses of water per day – more if you are physically active.
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake to moderate levels.
  • Manage stress – Practice stress-reducing techniques like yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises.

The bottom line

Good prostate health comes down to regular checkups, getting screened if eligible, and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking or drinking excessively may help prevent prostate problems.

Most importantly, talk to your doctor about any symptoms you may be experiencing. Being proactive can lead to early detection and better treatment outcomes if problems develop.

John Carroll, MD

Co-Chief of Urology