Genetics do, to a certain degree, play a role in the ageing process, but it is ultimately sensible lifestyle habits that protect the prostate gland and lend vitality and verve to a man’s passing years.
We can truly alter our ageing process by the way we live. Whether we can ultimately alter our longevity is not as important, in my opinion, as enhancing our health and vigour as we age. This article discusses the ageing process in general for men and then focuses on maintaining prostate health and sexual function over the years. For men, prostate and sexual function is important to feeling youthful. Those who remain sexually and sensually active feel better in many other ways as well.
We each have our genetics and biological clocks. Hopefully, if we play our cards right with healthy habits, and understanding our risks and disease potentials, we can live longer than our ancestors did, and at least outlive our parents.
Men must seriously consider the common diseases that can cut their lives short. Cardiovascular diseases start with rising blood pressure, higher cholesterol, and subsequent atherosclerosis. Lifestyle is so important to preventing, or at least delaying, these common problems, especially in terms of diet, exercise and stress management. Cancer risk is also a health and longevity threat, and here the colon and prostate are major concerns. These can and should be checked regularly to pick up any early changes. Colonoscopy, digital exams and PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) tests in men are well accepted for early diagnoses of these common cancers. Lung cancer is a minimal risk if you don’t or have not smoked.
It is important for men in the ageing process to maintain normal weight, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Abdominal obesity from excess calories from refined foods, sugars and alcohol creates a high risk for many diseases. Today it is more difficult to stay trim; however, research is showing that health and longevity can be maintained with exercise and staying fit even while being somewhat overweight.
TIPS FOR HEALTHY AGEING
- Avoid rich, fatty foods.
- Minimise sugar, refined foods and alcohol.
- Maintain normal weight.
- Eat plenty of fresh vegetables with quality proteins and fresh fruit.
- Exercise regularly.
- Stretch to stay young and flexible.
- Stay strong with weight training.
- Do aerobic exercise to stay fit and maintain endurance.
- Practice some form of stress reduction such as meditation, breathing, qi gong, tai-chi, yoga, or relax outdoors in nature.
- Address imbalances or symptoms such as sleep disorders, digestive issues, sexual dysfunction, allergies, weight loss or weight gain, and stress.
- Do your annual physical checkup to catch early signs of pending health problems.
- People who live a long and healthy life tend to practice forgiveness, find a good balance between work and relaxation, feel gratitude and joy every day, nurture their creativity, stay connected with their friends and family, make a living doing something they enjoy, and use their talents and gifts to be of service to others.
Common diseases among men over 40 involve the prostate sex organ and the colon, with stagnation and toxicity, diverticulitis (the formation of pouches in the bowel wall), and cancer. The Western lifestyle of stress, sitting, long hours of driving, TV watching, overeating, emotions, eating meat and milk products, sugary foods and caffeine, and regularly using alcohol sets the stage for chronic, debilitating and degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular problems, cancer, arthritis, and prostate enlargement or Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH), and prostate cancer.
SYMPTOMS OF PROSTATE ENLARGEMENT
The prostate is a fibro-muscular organ, about the size of two walnuts placed together, and it sits at the bottom of the man’s pelvis behind the genitals and in front of the rectum. Some symptoms of prostate enlargement or infection may be a pressure or swelling feeling in the perineum, or even more commonly, a difficulty in starting or stopping urination. There may be some change in the urine stream or force behind the urination because the ureter, or tube that passes from the kidneys and through the bladder, goes through the prostate tissue and then through the penis and out. Thus, when the prostate is swollen, it may interfere with the urine flow.
TESTING FOR PROSTATE
Long-term survival rate approaches 100% when prostate cancer is detected early. The American Cancer Society recommends a blood test and digital rectal examination be offered annually for men starting at age 50. However, men in high risk groups such as African American men, men with family histories of this disease, men with a history of rising PSA levels, as well as altered levels of oestrogen or testosterone levels may begin testing at a younger age (45 years). Men who are not at high risk but are between 40 and 50 years old should do both tests every couple of years.
There are several ways to check up on the condition of the prostate:
The digital exam involves the doctor palpating the gland by inserting his gloved and lubricated index finger in through the anus and pushing forward. The lobes should be firm without any enlargement, swelling, lumps or stony material. The patient should not feel any pain.
The PSA test is a blood test designed to measure an antigen that is created by prostate cancer cells. If the count is elevated, cancer may be present. Inflammation or infection can also raise the antigen count, however, so the prostate should be re-checked after a course of antibiotics to treat any potential infection. If the elevation persists, further testing may be required as it’s always wise to find out what is going on in the body.
- The prostate ultrasound involves a sound wave assessment of the prostate tissue.
- A Computated Tomography or CAT scan utilises x-rays to detect irregularities.
- A prostate biopsy extracts tissue from the prostate gland for lab testing.
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
The best overall plan, however, is to stay healthy and to maintain a healthy prostate. This requires a holistic approach to your life-style.
The importance of movement
Get regular exercise; maintain sexual activity; and take stretch and activity breaks from long periods of sitting and computer work – all these are activities which will help you maintain a healthy weight (thereby avoiding the risk of disease linked to abdominal obesity) and control your stress levels, which is a big contributor to ill health.
Nutrients, minerals and vitamins
Eating a low-fat, higher-fibre, more vegetarian and wholesome diet; and avoiding excess substance use, especially of refined sugars, red meats and alcohol, while obtaining adequate essential fatty acids daily, such as two teaspoons of flaxseed oil, as well as adding fish oils and evening primrose oil, are all ways to help prevent prostate problems.
Tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, guava and papaya all contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that mops up free radicals and helps protect the body against cancer. Cooked tomato products like tomato sauce allow lycopene to be more readily absorbed by the body. In research studies, two servings of tomato sauce a week are enough to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, collards, broccoli sprouts, Chinese broccoli, broccoli raab, kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnip, radish, rocket, watercress, and kale all contain sulforaphane, an anticancer and antimicrobial compound that helps the body repair damage caused by cancer cells while retarding their growth. These nutrient-rich vegetables also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases while providing higher levels of vitamins and minerals that are also needed to prevent or fight cancer.
Avoid charring meats when cooking (especially in grilling) to reduce the levels of a cancer-causing substance known as PhIP which has been associated to the development of prostate cancer in the laboratory. Slow roasting, stewing, and broiling (without charring) are better ways to cook meats.
Zinc, selenium, coenzyme-Q-10, vitamins C, E, K3, D, and the B-vitamins, particularly B6, are important for a healthy prostate.
There are two herbs that are especially effective in preventing and treating prostate diseases, thereby supporting sexual function:
- Saw palmetto berry (Serenoa repens) has been shown to diminish pain, inflammation and enlargement of the prostate, as well as reducing urinary urgency. Saw palmetto has been used for centuries and is thought to have a mild aphrodisiac effect, as well as increasing sperm production and sexual vitality.
- Pygeum africanum has been shown to reduce prostate enlargement and inflammation. It may also help stimulate libido. Pygeum has many natural chemicals that have anti-inflammatory and other positive effects on energy and bodily functions.
Some prostate formulas may also contain other herbs such as nettle, pumpkin seed extract or oil (higher in zinc and supportive of prostate health), and beta-sitosterol, a healthy fat that also supports the prostate. Most men over 40 to 50 years old can benefit from the regular use of a good prostate health formula to both support this organ and prevent prostate problems.
Herbs and formulas work well and are often safer and less expensive than the popular, mainstream prostate drugs. Ultimately, however, it is conceivable that if you follow the aforementioned lifestyle advice, you may avoid treatment altogether and maintain a healthy prostate and your sexual health and vigour.
Visit www.ProstateCancerFoundation.org to keep abreast of prostate cancer research and treatments.