Prostate Health

The prostate, a walnut-size gland located just below the bladder, is the source of many male urinary problems, including cancer, benign enlargement, and inflammation (prostatitis). Prostate cancer, with an estimated 18,000 new cases a year, is the most common male malignancy. Below you’ll find information you can use today to foster good health in the future.

Prostate health. The ailments commonly linked to the prostate can also be brought on by urinary tract infections, lifestyle habits, and a high-fat diet. More often than not, the factors that predispose us are beyond our control and more instrumental. As men age, the prostate tends to enlarge, a condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). About one-third of all men over 50 experience this noncancerous enlargement that can cause severe obstruction of urinary flow.

Prostate cancer, if treated in an early stage, is highly curable. In many cases, however, it may have spread to other organs by the time of diagnosis. For this reason, the American and Canadian Cancer societies urge all men over 40 to undergo annual or biannual screening, starting with a digital rectal examination. A blood test to measure prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a possible indicator, is also recommended, starting at the age of 50.

Dietary factors affecting the prostate. Diet may play a role in maintaining prostate health, and may help ward off cancer. Below are some common suggestions you can begin enacting today:

1. Practice making the proper plate. It is recommended that you eat lots of cruciferous vegetables, omega-3s, and other foods that protect the prostate. Fish and vegetable oils high in omega-3 fats seem to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. A diet that is high in saturated animal fats is to be limited, as it has been linked to an increased incidence of prostate problems. Vegetables from the cruciferous family such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower contain isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that appear to be protective. These foods also offer the added benefits of antioxidants. Whole grains offer fiber, selenium, vitamin E, and phytochemicals, all of which play a role in the prevention of cancer.

2. Drink plenty of fluids. Anyone with an enlarged prostate should drink plenty of water and other nonalcoholic fluids to flush the bladder. Consumption of fluids containing caffeine should be reduced to a minimum.

3. Supplements and substances. Keep an eye out for the following:

Lycopene. A recent study of nearly 48,000 men found that this substance, found in such foods as tomatoes, tomato products, red grapefruits, and watermelons appears to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. These findings support the recommendations to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are high in other antioxidants and bioflavonoid pigments that protect against various cancers. Cooking appears to release more of the lycopene in tomatoes, so tomato-based pasta sauces and soups may be especially beneficial. Lycopene is fat soluble so is better absorbed when eaten with a little fat.

Vitamin E. It is known to reduce inflammation and may protect against prostate cancer. Men, especially smokers, who have low levels of vitamin E appear to be at increased risk. Good sources include margarine, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, wheat germ, and whole grains.

Selenium. It may protect against prostate cancer. This antioxidant is found in nuts, especially Brazil nuts, seafood, some meats, fish, wheat bran, wheat germ, oats, and brown rice.

Isoflavones. Soy products can help prevent prostate enlargement, may help protect against prostate cancer, and may slow tumor growth. This effect is attributed to isoflavones, plant chemicals that help lower dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male hormone that stimulates the overgrowth of prostate tissue.

Avoid at all costs. Alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, and other substances that irritate the urinary tract should be avoided. Also, weight should be moderated, as excessive gain affects overall health, in addition to the prostate.

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