It seems to be on the minds of most men over the age of 50: protecting your prostate health. With the rates of prostate cancer steadily rising over the last few decades, men want to know what they can do to keep it from happening to them. Just as the medical industry has done with breast cancer prevention, prostate cancer prevention is all about screening. As we’ve pointed out before, detection isn’t prevention.
As a man ages, so does his prostate gland. This walnut-shaped gland lies below the bladder, in front of the rectum and surrounds part of the urethra. The prostate gland isn’t even a thought to most men up until their late forties. However, oftentimes when a man reaches his fifties he becomes painfully aware of its existence. As the prostate gland ages it begins to swell and grow more than normal. Because the urethra travels through the prostate gland, this swelling and growth can cause a lot of problems for both a man’s urinary and sexual health.
The most common problem men face in terms of prostate health is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
You’ve most likely heard of this one, whether it be during commercials on TV or health programs, BPH is one of those terms with which most middle-aged men are all too familiar. If you’re a male over 40 you either have it or you’re worried about having it. BPH is basically an enlarged prostate. Think of it as your prostate’s second growth spurt.
Unfortunately, there are a few growing pains associated with this new development among which are difficulty urinating, dribbling, frequent urination or urgency, partial emptying of bladder, painful urination, painful orgasm, decreased libido, impotence, lower back pain and urinary tract infections to name a few.
An enlarged prostate is the result of hormonal imbalance. Because the prostate’s metabolic actions are mainly directed by hormones including testosterone, progesterone and estradiol, the impact of hormonal balance on the prostate gland is huge. You may be surprised to learn that like women, men can suffer from estrogen dominance as well. As men age, their testosterone and progesterone levels fall while their levels of estradiol begin to rise. Couple this with the fact that fat cells convert testosterone into estrogen in overweight males and we’ve got hormonal imbalance. In addition, there is an increase in levels of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reducatase. Fancy name aside, this enzyme converts the good testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. Why do you care? This dihydrotestosterone is behind male patterned baldness and contributes to an enlarging prostate.
So what can you do about this? It’s all about maintaining healthy levels of testosterone and progesterone.
Progesterone actually inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, thus stopping the production of dihydrotestosterone.
Whereas estrogen dominance turns on an oncogene that increases the susceptibility to cancer, progesterone and testosterone activate the cancer protective gene, p53. Too often men become nervous when it comes to supplementing with testosterone because they’ve heard that it relates to cancer, but beside the fact that this is not what has been found medically, let’s also apply a little bit of common sense. When are men most likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer? As they age and their testosterone declines.
Instead of relying solely on detection, maybe it’s time you begin a plan of prevention by ensuring that you have healthy levels of testosterone and progesterone. Don’t forget to check back later this week as we’ll give you a list of supplements and diet recommendations for a healthy prostate.