As men age, the risk of prostate problems increases so it’s important to make sure you’re doing everything you can to reduce the risk of developing serious issues.
The good news is the things you need to do to keep your prostate healthy are also the things you need to keep the rest of the body healthy. HBF Medical Director, Dr. Andy Papa-Adams explains more on how you can avoid prostate issues, including some interesting new research on red and orange foods.
In this article
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland at the bottom of the bladder that produces seminal fluid which is important for sperm viability. Prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, is an enzyme produced by the prostate that liquifies semen and helps it mix with sperm. PSA levels play an important role in identifying and monitoring prostate health.
The urethra is the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the outside of the body and it runs through the middle of the prostate. That’s why issues with the prostate commonly present with issues related to passing urine.
How to know if you have an issue
Symptoms of a prostate issue are usually related to the problem itself. For example, with advancing age, the prostate tends to get larger, a process known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. In this non-cancerous condition, the prostate gland enlarges to the point that it compresses the urethra, and this results in symptoms such as:
- struggling to start urinating
- poor stream
- needing to pass urine more often
- dribbling at the end of urination
- needing to pass urine more than once overnight.
Prostate cancer can present with similar symptoms but there are also some other more concerning things to look out for such as blood in the urine or semen, erectile dysfunction, and unexplained weight loss. If you ever have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your GP as soon as possible.
What are the best ways to reduce the risk of prostate problems?
The fact is that as men age, they are at higher risk of prostate-related issues and though there are no proven measures to prevent prostate cancer, you can maintain good general health by addressing your diet and fitness and minimising those things that predispose you to disease.
Here are Dr. Andy's researched ways to reduce your risk of prostate problems:
- Diet. The Australian Government recommends consistently eating a balanced diet with a variety of at least five serves of vegetables, two serves of fruit, grains, lean meats, and a small amount of dairy every day.1 Lycopene is an antioxidant found in red and orange foods such as tomatoes, watermelons, and carrots. Research suggests that eating these foods may reduce the progression and growth of prostate cancer cells.2 Some research suggests there is an association with eating citrus fruit and a lower prostate cancer risk, though more studies are required.3
- Exercise. Research has shown that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of symptoms from BPH. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week with strength training two times per week.4
- Weight management. Maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Aim for a body mass index of between 18.5 and 24.9.
- Smoking. Research has found that in those diagnosed with prostate cancer, smokers are at higher risk of the cancer coming back and spreading, and at higher risk of death compared with non-smokers. If you are a smoker the best way to lower your risk is to quit.
- Alcohol. There is evidence that a high alcohol intake is associated with many cancers therefore to reduce the risk, it’s important to limit alcohol intake to 10 standard drinks per week. Current research supports post-diagnosis alcohol consumption was associated with an increased rate of death after prostate cancer diagnosis.
How are prostate problems managed?
If you have any symptoms potentially related to your prostate, the first step is to see your doctor. They will most likely ask you to get a blood test to measure the PSA levels and perform a prostate examination by placing a gloved finger into the rectum. In some cases, the GP may refer you to a specialist urologist (a doctor who deals with prostate and other urinary tract conditions) and they may do a biopsy of the prostate to get more information and guide treatment.
For more information about prostate health and to discuss your risk visit your GP.
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This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.