Most men have heard about their prostate's existence, most likely in a discussion with their doctor. Face it, though, most probably don't really know what it is or what role it plays in their health. But they need to know. By the time a man is about 25 years old, his prostate has started to grow, possibly leading to one or more of several health issues that could require medical attention. Relatively few men over the age of 70 are immune from a prostate problem of one sort or another that is almost inevitable the older a man gets.
What Is the Prostate?The prostate is a small gland that is about the size and shape of a walnut. It is part of the male reproductive system, per webmd.com, situated beneath your bladder and in front of your rectum. It surrounds a segment of your urethra, which is the tube inside your penis that transports urine from your bladder to be expelled. The prostate contributes to the production of some of the fluid in semen that carries sperm from your testicles when you ejaculate. Furthermore, muscles within the prostate aid in the expulsion of semen during ejaculation, per everydayhealth.com. As you get older, the prostate continues to grow in size, possibly increasing in size to that of an apricot by the time you are 40, and to the size of a lemon around the time you hit your 60s. Because it encompasses part of the urethra, the prostate's increased size can squeeze the tube, leading to a problematic condition when you try to pee. In medical terms, this condition is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or what is known in layman's terms as an enlarged prostate.
BPHPer webmd.com, BPH is a fairly common condition that can't be prevented, as eight out of 10 men eventually are beset with BPH, and about 90 percent of men over the age of 80 will experience this. Common BPH symptoms include the following, per health.harvard.edu:
- a weak urine stream that can be hesitant at first, then intermittent
- urgency, leaking, or dribbling
- a sensation of incomplete emptying of urine
- more frequent urination, especially at night
Other Prostate ConditionsIn addition to BPH, there are two other known health-related conditions associated with the prostate. One is prostatitis, which is an inflammation of the prostate that likely involves either a bacterial infection or some sort of noninfectious condition, either of which can be accompanied by pain during urination or ejaculation. If it's a bacterial infection, possible symptoms in addition to the pain are fever, chills, and muscle aches, per everydayhealth.com. Treatment can include antibiotics. Another health condition involving the prostate can be prostate cancer, which is highly treatable if detected early. Other than skin cancer, this is the most common form of cancer in men, with about 230,000 new cases being diagnosed annually, per everydayhealth.com. Early symptoms can include difficulty in urinating and/or blood in your urine. Even if you're not experiencing symptoms of any type of prostate condition, it's wise to get an annual physical, during which time your doctor will typically give you a digital rectal exam (DRE) to check the size of your prostate.
A Healthy Diet Aimed at Prostate HealthEven though prostate issues are common and close to inevitable if you live long enough, there are a variety of nutrients you can work into your diet through what you eat or through nutritional supplements that might help you stave off conditions such as BPH and prostatitis. These include the following:
- Pomegranate. Drinking eight ounces of pomegranate juice a day can aid in the health of your prostate.
- Cranberry. It contains both antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which have been shown helpful in relieving symptoms of chronic nonbacterial prostatitis, per everydayhealth.com.
- Quercetin. This is a flavonoid, found in onions among other foods, that could contribute in providing protection against cancer.
- Garlic. It bolsters your body's immune function and might also be able to help in an anti-cancer capacity.
- Omega-3s. Fatty fish, such as salmon, are abundant in omega-3s, which can be beneficial toward prostate health, per glozine.com.