Understanding Prostate Health Essentials for Men Over 40
As men enter their 40s, understanding prostate health becomes crucial to their overall well-being. While these issues usually affect those over 50, men in their 40s are not exempt from experiencing symptoms. Most prostate conditions, including cancer, can be effectively managed with early detection and appropriate care.
Understanding the function of the prostate, recognizing symptoms of common conditions and the significance of regular check-ups are steps to maintain prostate health. Practical lifestyle habits are also important to support prostate health.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland about the size of a walnut located in front of the rectum just below the bladder. It wraps around the urethra, which carries urine out of the body. The prostate is part of a man’s sex organs and is responsible for producing fluid that is part of semen. Regardless of age, men should see a doctor right away if they notice any of the following eight signs of prostate problems:
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Having to get up during the night to urinate
- Presence of blood in urine or semen
- Feeling pain or a burning sensation while urinating
- Inability to urinate
- Painful ejaculation
- Urine dribbling
- Recurrent pain or stiffness in the lower abdomen, hips, pelvic area or upper leg
How are prostate conditions diagnosed?
Many doctors recommend a first prostate exam by age 50 if you have a family history of prostate cancer. A prostate exam is a screening method to detect early prostate cancer signs. It typically includes a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE).
The PSA blood test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in your blood. No official cutoff score can determine whether or not you have prostate cancer. Instead, the results are used to determine if more testing is needed. If you have a high PSA, you may need further testing — such as a prostate biopsy, MRI or other lab tests to determine if prostate cancer may be present.
During the digital rectal exam (DRE), your healthcare provider carefully inserts their gloved finger into your rectum. This allows them to feel the edges and surface of your prostate gland to detect any potential abnormalities. While a DRE may be uncomfortable, it’s usually not painful, and it only takes a few seconds to complete.
Common prostate conditions
The prostate can be affected by several conditions, each with unique causes and symptoms. The three most common culprits concerning prostate health are inflammation (prostatitis), an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) and prostate cancer.
- Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland, often resulting in pain and urinary symptoms. It can be triggered by a bacterial infection, among other factors.
- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate that can lead to urinary symptoms.
- Prostate cancer is a malignant growth within the prostate. It often grows slowly and may not cause symptoms in its early stages.
Understanding your prostate health is the first step towards taking control of it. Each of these conditions requires a unique approach to treatment, making a correct diagnosis crucial if you're experiencing prostate-related symptoms.
Basic prostate care
For men over 40, maintaining prostate health is a part of overall well-being. Standard prostate care practices to help keep your prostate in good shape include:
- Balanced diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats can support your overall and prostate health. Prioritize antioxidant-rich foods and limit red and processed meats.
- Regular exercise: Staying active helps maintain a healthy weight, which benefits prostate health. Choose a form of exercise you enjoy and make it a part of your daily routine.
- Regular check-ups: Medical check-ups are vital as you age. Early detection of potential issues increases the chances of successful treatment.
- Limit alcohol and avoid tobacco: Excessive alcohol and tobacco products can negatively impact your overall health, including your prostate.
- Be aware of your body: Pay attention to any changes you notice, especially those related to urination or sexual function. If you notice any changes or symptoms, such as difficulty urinating or blood in the urine, seek medical advice promptly.
What treatments are there for prostate conditions?
If BPH is diagnosed, the condition can be managed in several ways. Mild symptoms may not require any treatment. However, regular checkups are necessary to help ensure the condition doesn’t worsen. Other options include taking medications to shrink or relax the prostate so it does not block the bladder opening or surgery to help urine flow. Some prostate surgeries can be performed by surgeons using robotic-assisted technology.
Acute prostatitis can start suddenly and cause fever, chills or lower back pain. Another form of prostatitis, called chronic bacterial prostatitis, is an infection that occurs repeatedly. Both may be treated with antibiotics. Chronic bacterial prostatitis may require more than one round of treatment.
Different prostate problems, including prostate cancer, may cause similar symptoms.
Therefore, it’s important to talk to a doctor who specializes in urology if you are experiencing prostate-related symptoms or problems.
Prostate Cancer Foundation
Johns Hopkins Medicine