Guide to Good Prostate Health

As you get older, you may become aware that you need to pay attention to your prostate health. Prostate cancer is a condition that affects primarily older men. It is important to know how to not only identify ways to maintain good prostate health, but also what to do if you suspect you may need a doctor's attention.

Understanding prostate health
Your prostate gland is a small gland that produces seminal fluid, located below your bladder and in front of your rectum. This gland surrounds the tube that transports urine from the bladder out of your body. If the prostate gland is inflamed or enlarged, it can cause problems with urination and can make it difficult to maintain an erection.

If you are a healthy man, your prostate will not give you any problems until you advance in age. However, men over age 50 should begin to pay attention to prostate health, as that is when most prostate health issues begin to surface.

Common prostate health problems
The most common three prostate health complications men encounter are the following:

  • Prostatitus: This is an infection (usually bacterial) which can be treated with an antibiotic.
  • Enlarged prostate gland: This is mostly an inconvenience, causing you to have to urinate frequently or experience problems with dribbling after urination.
  • Prostate cancer: This is when a malignant tumor forms in the prostate gland, which can spread throughout the body and cause significant health problems, including death.

Prostate cancer
There are many types of prostate cancer, some of which are mostly contained to the prostate and are easy to treat, and some which are aggressive and spread rapidly, making them much more challenging to treat. In either case, a diagnosis of prostate cancer is important to take seriously.

How to detect prostate cancer
Unfortunately, prostate cancer does not usually show itself early on. However, sometimes prostate cancer reveals itself through urinary complications, such as trouble urinating, sudden stopping and starting during urination, and weakened flow of urine, characterized by dribbling. It can also sometimes show itself through blood in the urine semen.

If the prostate cancer has spread to your lymph nodes in your groin area, you may experience swelling and discomfort in your pelvic area.

The best way to detect prostate cancer is to have regular annual screenings for prostate cancer. 

Prostate cancer screenings
There are two tests used to screen for prostate cancer:

  • Prostate-specific antigen test: This is a blood test which checks for high levels of a specific kind of antigen, which can indicate either prostate enlargement or prostate cancer.
  • Digital rectal exam: This is when a doctor inserts a lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for an enlarged prostate. It is slightly uncomfortable, but is a test that could save your life.
  • Transrectal ultrasound: With this test, a small probe is inserted into your rectum. The probe will take photographs of your prostate gland using sound waves. 

Best practices promoting good men's prostate health
There are several things you can do to improve your prostate health:

  • Watch your diet. Men who are eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day are at lower risk for developing cancer of any kind, including prostate cancer.  It is especially advised that you eat plenty of vegetables that contain lycopene, such as tomatoes, since this is supposed to improve prostate health.
  • Get active. It is recommended that you exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
  • Consider taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. This technique is still under debate as to its effectiveness, but essentially taking Ibuprofen, or naproxen may inhibit the formation of prostate cancer cells.
  • Have an annual physical. Make it a practice to have a physical every year so you can detect prostate cancer and other health issues before they get out of hand.
  • Consider taking a vitamin or supplement. While the verdict is still out on whether vitamins and supplements can improve prostate health, it is suggested that you take vitamin E and lycopene supplements. 

The following are known risk factors for developing prostate cancer:

  • Age: Men usually don't develop prostate cancer until after age 50.  In fact, 65 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are over age 65.
  • Race: African-American men have a higher risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer.
  • Heredity: If you have prostate cancer in your family history, you are at a higher risk than if you do not.
  • Diet: Obese men are at higher risk than men at healthy weight.  This may be because extra fat increase the amount of testosterone produced by the body, and extra testosterone may encourage the development of prostate cancer cells.
  • High levels of testosterone: The use of testosterone therapy may result in the development of prostate cancer cells.

A proactive approach saves lives
You should make an appointment to see your doctor if:

  • You experience difficult urinating or a change in your urinary stream flow.
  • You see blood in your urine or semen.
  • You experience swelling or discomfort in your groin or pelvic area.
  • You are over 50. Make sure you have an annual physical, including a screening for prostate cancer.
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