The prostate is a walnut-sized gland forming part of the male reproductive system. Its main purpose is to secrete fluid that carries sperm and semen. The prostate is located in the lower abdomen, near the upper part of the urethra.
Taking steps to keep your prostate healthy is key to reducing the risk of disease and maintaining overall urological health. This is particularly true as we age. Conditions like prostate cancer, prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and prostatitis can impact all men.
Research has shown that low physical activity levels and poor diet can increase the risk of these conditions. Everyone can take steps to reduce this risk through lifestyle changes. Here is what you need to know about how diet and physical health impact the prostate.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, is a condition causing the enlargement of the prostate gland. The enlargement is caused by compression of the urethra and an obstruction to the flow of urine. This is non-cancerous and more common in men as they get older, with symptoms seen in 90% of men aged in their seventies and eighties.
Symptoms of BPH include:
• Frequent or sudden urges to urinate
• Pain or discomfort during urination
• Difficulty urinating
• Drops of urine after urination
• Slow start to urination
• Feeling that the bladder isn’t fully emptied after urination
Medical research has long established a link between physical activity and BPH. Men with higher activity levels are less likely to suffer from this condition. Even low to moderate exercise can reduce the risk of BPH. Obese men, and those who carry excess weight around the waist, have a greater risk of BPH. By simply adding a walk into your daily routine, you contribute to your overall fitness and promote good prostate health.
Prostate cancer develops when abnormal cells mutate and grow more rapidly than normal cells. Prostate cancer is typically slow growing. It often will not present symptoms until advanced stages. Risk factors include genetics, age and family history. However, diet and physical health has also been linked to the development of prostate cancer.
There is well-established evidence linking diet and physical activity to several cancers. Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, recently suggested obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer have more than double the risk of death than a normal weight man diagnosed with the same condition.
A low-fat, high-fibre diet will be beneficial to reducing the risk of cancer development and progression. As physical activity impacts levels of excess body weight, staying active also plays a vital role in reducing your cancer risk and maintaining prostate health.
Swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland is known as prostatitis. This can be the result of a bacterial or nonbacterial infection. Prostatitis can lead to pain, discomfort, difficulty with urination and UTIs. Prostatitis is different to BPH and can impact men of all ages.
The four types of prostatitis are:
Acute bacterial prostatitis
Chronic bacterial prostatitis
A good diet and physical activity can greatly reduce the severity of prostatitis and promote your urological wellbeing. In 2007, the Journal of Urology published a study in which Italian researchers gave 231 sedentary men with chronic prostatitis different exercise programs.
Over the course of 18 weeks, one group conducted aerobic exercise and the other, non-aerobic exercise. Exercise was undertaken three times a week. At the conclusion of the study, men across both exercising groups said they felt better. Those who undertook more vigorous aerobic exercise felt less discomfort and anxiety.
As we now know, diet and physical health impact the prostate in several ways. A clear link between a nutritionally balanced diet and prostate conditions suggests it is worthwhile making simple lifestyle changes.
A nutritionally rich diet will reduce the risk of BPH, prostate cancer and the severity of prostatitis. Dietary practices that can positively improve your prostate health include:
• Eat plenty of fruits and leafy vegetables
• Reduce your intake of red meat and processed meat
• Eat more fatty fish rich in omega-3
• Reduce dietary factors contributing to obesity
• Consider plant-based proteins such as legumes
• Swap out refined grains for whole grains
Dr Arianayagam is an experienced urologist and specialist urological surgeon based in Sydney. He works from his urology clinic in Bella Vista, and at both public and private hospitals across Sydney, and treats all kinds of prostate conditions.
If you have any further questions about urology or would like to book an appointment, please feel free to call today.