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Given a choice in a cheeky men’s health survey recently, 72 percent of men said they’d rather clean the toilet than go to the doctor. Most cited embarrassment or discomfort as reasons—especially when it came to “below-the-belt” issues.
So … let’s talk—about something you can’t see—and likely don’t even think about, unless, of course, it’s acting up. We’re talking prostate.
What is it?
Your prostate is a gland, roughly the shape and size of a walnut that is part of the male reproductive system. It’s located between the bladder and urethra and in front of the rectum. Your prostate’s main function is to make fluid, containing various enzymes, zinc, and citric acid, that makes up one third of semen.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
With age, testosterone levels decrease, stimulating prostate growth. By age 40, the prostate gland begins to enlarge as benign tissue cells multiply, which may lead to a narrowing of the urethra and subsequent bladder problems, one of the chief symptoms of BPH. These symptoms can include waking often to urinate, an unusual smell or color to the urine, or pain while urinating.
BPH is not linked to, and doesn’t increase risk of getting, prostate cancer—but BPH symptoms can be similar to those of prostate cancer, so don’t ignore them.
Most often affecting younger men, prostatitis is an inflammation, or swelling, of the prostate that may be caused by bacteria. Prostatitis may cause symptoms involving urinating and bladder control—going to the bathroom frequently or trouble urinating. Having prostatitis doesn’t increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and can often be completely removed or managed successfully when diagnosed. It is detected by digital rectal examination (DRE) or prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing.
How to prevent it
Unlike genetics, we may be able to control some of the environmental causes of prostate cancer.
- quit smoking; it may play a role in aggressive types of prostate cancer
- adopt a plant-based diet; vegan diets may reduce prostate cancer risks and increase your odds of surviving it
- limit alcohol consumption
- limit saturated fat, red meat, and dairy if you have other risk factors
- embrace soy (tofu, tempeh, etc.) and cooked (also canned) tomatoes to reduce risk
- get walking—outdoors!
- be mindful and take up meditation
- get enough quality sleep
Prostate protective supplements
Studies have shown that these supplements may benefit prostate health or symptoms of prostate problems.
- green tea catechins (EGCG)
- saw palmetto
- vitamin D
- vitamin E
Don’t procrastinate, men! If you suspect you may have a problem “below the belt,” take charge of your health and visit your health care practitioner.