Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths of men in the United States. One in nine men will be diagnosed with it during his lifetime, and about 80% of men who reach the age of 80 have cancer cells in their prostate. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), prostate cancer is forecasted to get worse, primarily due to lifestyle factors. Fortunately, these risk factors are often manageable. Things like the food we eat and the amount of exercise we get can increase or decrease our risks of developing prostate cancer. Even though rates are on the rise, there are many things we can do to stay healthy and minimize risk.
A closer look at the role of the prostate will help us better understand the importance of focusing on prostate health, including what you can do right now to improve it.
The prostate is an organ that is only present in males. This small organ has the important role of protecting semen as they are released into the urethra. When a male is about to ejaculate, the prostate contracts and releases a fluid that protects semen, allowing the genetic coding to make its way out of the penis undamaged, ensuring a higher rate of survival.
Why Should You Care About Prostate Health?
Outside of being necessary for a male’s role in reproduction, the health of the prostate is critical for avoiding one of the most prevalent forms of cancer in men.
According toCancer.net, almost 175,000 men in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. While the majority of cases will be in men over the age of 65, this is not a reason to ignore the health of your prostate until retirement.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
According to a study inClinical Epidemiology, there are three primary causes of prostate cancer outside of a genetic susceptibility:
- High levels of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at combating disease. If you’ve been living an unhealthy lifestyle for many years, it can catch up with you as you get older, unless you make changes. Studies suggest that your risk for prostate cancer begins to significantly increase in your 50s, but dramatically decreases after the age of 70.
According to a study inSeminars in Radiation Oncology, African American men are far more likely to develop prostate cancer than Hispanic or Caucasian men. It’s important for men in higher risk categories to pay attention to their lifestyle habits and get regular check-ups with their doctors starting at a young age.
Finally, men with higher levels of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) are more likely to develop complications with the prostate. DHT is created when it’s converted from the androgenic hormone, testosterone, and it has been shown to cause enlargement in the cells in the prostate. This eventually leads to chronic inflammation and an increased risk of prostate cancer development.
Best Ways to Improve Prostate Health
Although your risk for prostate cancer doesn’t sharply increase until later in life, taking action now can help to cut your risk in half or more. Here are some of the best ways to improve your prostate health and avoid complications as you age:
Change Your Diet
According to a study published in the Journal of Urology, your dietary choices can influence your chance of developing complications related to the prostate, including trouble going to the bathroom and a higher risk of cancer. Diet can impact your prostate by increasing inflammation and as well as DHT levels.
In general, you’ll want to increase the amount ofplant-based foods in your diet while greatly decreasing or eliminating red meat,dairy, and processed foods. But let’s get a bit more specific with some of the best pro-prostate foods to start incorporating into your diet.
- Fattyfish such as salmon and tuna
- Lean proteins such as chicken breast and lentils
- Dark leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach
- Cruciferousvegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower
- Citrus fruits such as oranges and limes
- Nuts and seeds such as pumpkin seeds and almonds
- Berries, especially goji and acai berries
Change Coffee for Green Tea
Are you acoffee addict? Do you need thatmorning cup of coffee? Getting your love ofcaffeine in check can also help to protect your prostate. The best way to make the switch? Start drinking green tea instead.
Containing only 25 mg of caffeine (compared to 200 mg of caffeine in strong coffee), green tea is a potent energy booster that also promotesweight management and prostate health. A study published in theChinese Medical Journal confirmed that the drinking catechins found in green tea and promotingantioxidant activity helps to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
While the primary focus should be on changing your diet to promote prostate health, supplements may also be able to help.
A study published in theJournal of Urology found that supplementing with saw palmetto helped to reduce inflammation in the prostate and improve urine flow.
Saw palmetto may also be helpful in reducing DHT levels, which in turn, can protect the prostate.
One other supplement to consider is beta-sitosterol. Studies, including one published in theCochrane Library, found that men with an enlarged prostate reported improved urinary tract conditions when supplementing with beta-sitosterol.
Move Your Body!
If you aren’t already invested in a physical fitness program, this is another reason to get started withregular exercise. A study published in theBMJ Open found that exercise helped to delay the progression of prostate cancer.
The CDC recommends the following as the bare minimum of exercise every week:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or
- 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise, or
- A combination of both
For more benefits, especially if you’re wanting to improve your prostate health, the CDC recommends the following every week:
- 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or
- 150 minutes of high-intensity exercise, or
- A combination of both
Better Prostate Health Starts Now
While most men aren’t diagnosed with prostate cancer until they reach their 50s or 60s, you can reduce your risk of getting that bad news later on by implementing some of these tips now. Don’t wait to start implementing new lifestyle changes. Make those mindful decisions and lower your potential risk, and stay healthier for longer.