Prostate health is not a topic that comes up in everyday conversation, but it’s an important one. Just like each part of the body, the prostate is supported by a well-balanced diet and lifestyle.
Here are some facts that can help you keep this small but crucial gland healthy.
Why Prostate Health Matters
The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. It’s a walnut-sized gland that sits right below the bladder and surrounds part of the urethra. The prostate helps make some semen fluid and carries and nurtures sperm.
When it comes to prostate health, there are a few conditions to be concerned about:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate. Since the prostate is surrounding some of the urethra, a common BPH symptom is trouble urinating.
- Prostatitis: infection or inflammation of the prostate. Symptoms include sexual problems, trouble urinating, and fever or chills.
- Prostate cancer: the second most common cancer, after skin cancer, in men. Symptoms of prostate cancer include those above, loss of bladder control, or blood in urine.
For most men, the prostate grows larger as they age. By the age of 40, the prostate can reach the size of an apricot. By 60, it can grow as large as a lemon. This is BPH, and it’s a benign condition. (However, if you notice signs of BPH early, see your doctor.)
Although these problems don’t usually begin until age 40 or older, there’s never a bad time for prevention and healthy habits to support prostate health. And it’s always good to be aware of any changes, at any age, so you can get any needed professional help.
Besides noting any changes in the prostate as you age, here are three main things to know about supporting good prostate health:
1. Eat a Nutrient-Rich Diet
A prostate health diet is one rich in vitamins and minerals from whole foods. Those include:
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, lettuce, brussel sprouts and broccoli
- Colorful veggies like bell peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash
- Fruits like berries, peaches, oranges, grapefruit and avocado
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, organic peanut butter, flax seeds and sunflower seeds
- Beans and lentils
- Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel
These foods contain nutrients, antioxidants, fiber and polyphenols that your whole body needs to maintain optimal health, including prostate function.
It’s also a good idea to avoid charred meats as much as possible. Studies have shown a link between meats cooked at high temperatures and certain cancers, including prostate cancer [*].
2. Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
A healthy diet should always be accompanied by healthy lifestyle habits. That includes:
- Staying well-hydrated as much as possible
- Exercising regularly, preferably at least five days a week
- Not drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, especially close to bedtime
- Not smoking
- Getting enough sleep each night and reducing stress
Maintaining a healthy sex life may also help support a healthy prostate.
3. Talk to Your Doctor About Screening
The recommendations for prostate cancer screening vary depending on your situation. Those at higher risk are usually urged to get screened at age 40, while all other men are encouraged to start screenings at 55.
You’re at higher risk if:
- You have a first-degree relative (father, son or brother) who was diagnosed with prostate cancer early
- You have three or more first-degree relatives or two close relatives on the same side of your family who were diagnosed with prostate cancer
- You’re an African-American man
The Bottom Line
Men can be less likely to get help with health issues, but this is an area to pay attention to. Be mindful of your health, and if you notice anything out of the ordinary, speak with your doctor. Prostate cancer is usually slow-growing, so early prevention and education can be life-saving!