What does the prostate do?
Your prostate gland is about the size of a walnut and is situated underneath your bladder. It surrounds part of your urethra. The urethra is the tube that you pass urine and semen through. The prostate’s gland job is to make the fluid part of semen which nourishes the sperm. This is important for reproduction as sperm are involved in fertilisation.
What are some prostate problems?
If there is something wrong with your prostate, you might experience symptoms when you pee. This is because the prostate surrounds the urethra. This is a tube where urine is passed through. These symptoms are referred to as ‘lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS)’ or ‘bladder outflow obstruction’.
Symptoms of prostate problems can vary but you may:
- find it difficult to pee, for example straining or taking a long time
- notice a weak flow of urine
- feel that your bladder has not emptied fully
- keep dribbling urine after you’ve finished
- have a sudden urge or frequent need to pee
- keep getting up at night to pee
- involuntary leaking pee (incontinence)
These symptoms are most commonly caused by an enlarged prostate, which can block the flow of urine. The medical name for this is Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Other types of prostate problems, which may include these symptoms and other symptoms include infection or inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) and prostate cancer.
How can I make my prostate healthy?
There’s are some things you can’t change, such as your age. And as you get older, you are more likely to get an enlarged prostate, especially after the age of 50. Other things that you can’t change include your family history and ethnicity. Your risk of prostate cancer also increases with age.
But, here are four things you can do to help keep your prostate healthy.
1. Eat healthily
Try and eat a well-balanced diet as this is good for your overall general health. A diet that is low in fat may help lower the risk of prostate cancer. Eating fruits, vegetables and cereals may also be good for reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
You might hear that not eating enough tomatoes is linked to prostate cancer, but there is not strong evidence to support this. So, eating tomatoes is not guaranteed to stop you getting prostate cancer. But tomatoes are still healthy for you so it’s good to include them in your diet, along with other fruits and vegetables. This will help to reduce the risk of cancer in general.
Try to eat less meat as well, as prostate cancer may be related to a diet high in animal fat.
There is a small amount of evidence that eating a lot of calcium is linked to prostate cancer. But there are also some studies that have not found a link.
Calcium can be found in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. But you shouldn’t completely cut out dairy as it’s important for bone and teeth health. Try to eat lower fat and lower sugar dairy products instead, such as low fat yoghurt and semi-skimmed milk.
2. Limit alcoholic drinks
It is not clearly known if drinking increases the risk of prostate cancer. But, heavy drinking, especially binge drinking, has been associated with increased prostate cancer risk.
Some studies have shown that moderate or high alcohol intake is linked to reduced risk of prostate enlargement. But alcohol intake has also been associated with increased risk of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to other diseases including other cancers.
If you drink alcohol, try to avoid drinking more than the recommended limit of 14 units. That works out as around six regular glasses of wine or six pints of beer each week.
Limiting drinking to the recommended weekly amounts will also help you to keep to a healthy weight. To help with cutting down on alcohol, you could try having alcohol free days or try out drinking mocktails.
3. Stop smoking
Smoking may be linked to the symptoms of prostate enlargement. Smoking can also put you at risk of aggressive prostate cancer which means it’s more likely to spread. Stopping smoking can be hard, but there is plenty of support available to help you quit.
4. Exercise regularly
If you exercise regularly this can help you maintain a healthy weight, and can be very good for your prostate health. If you are obese, you could be at risk of an enlarged prostate. If you try losing weight you may be able to delay the onset of prostate enlargement symptoms.
It’s not clear if exercise will prevent prostate cancer. But if you are overweight or obese you might have a greater chance of developing a faster growing prostate cancer. So, it’s important to stay physically active.
UK guidelines recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week to stay healthy. This could be activities such as walking, cycling or gardening. If you don’t exercise much don’t worry. We have tips and advice to help you get started with exercising.
Eating well, exercising as well as avoiding smoking could ensure your prostate stays healthy. If you are worried about your prostate, or you are experiencing urinary symptoms you should see a doctor as soon as you can so that they can assess and examine you.