It is called benign prostate hyperplasia, and affects only men, usually over 40 years. But every woman knows a man 4o years and above—a father, uncle, brother, son, friend, neighbour or colleague.
To understand the prostate, get to know your kidneys. You have a pair of them working as the waste management company of your body. Your blood passes through your kidney to be filtered. After filtration, urine is formed and stored in a temporary storage tank called the bladder.
Without a bladder, you’d be dripping urine all over. Which should remind you of your house plumbing. If the bladder is the overhead tank, the urethra is the pipe that runs from the tank to the tip of the penis. Just under the urethra is a tiny thing called the prostate gland.
It is the size of a walnut and weights around 20 grams. Its job is to make the seminal fluid, a lubricant that flows down the urethra and mixes with sperm to form semen.
After you hit 40, this gland begins to swell, and science doesn’t quite know why. As it swells, it squeezes the urethra and certain changes begin to show up.
Downstream. The urine stream weakens, unable to travel long distance. It may even come straight down on your legs when you try to pee. So you may need to stand in awkward positions to urinate.
Terminal dripping. When you take a leak, urine still drops on your underwear. That’s the reason an older man has to “ring bell” after peeing. A younger man delivers to the last drop and walks away. An older man may sometimes clutch a newspaper to hide the urine stains.
Hesitancy. You have no control over it but you have to wait longer for urine flow to begin. Two valves—internal and external sphincters—need to open for this to happen. Both open but obstructions in the urethra delays start of flow.
Incomplete emptying. This is the feeling that there’s still something left immediately after you are done urinating.
At this point the bladder is working harder to make up for the obstruction in the urethra. Frequency of urination rises, and sometimes it is so urgent you practically have to run for the toilet. And then nocturia—the urge to pee gets you out of bed at least thrice every night.
Many men may not talk about it, and then more serious complications begin.
Stored urine gets infected, and there may be burning sensation when peeing. Stored urine forms crystals, which in turn come together to form stones in the bladder or kidney. They may block the urethra.
In chronic urine retention, the bladder stores more and more. A bladder is 40 – 60cl, liquid contents only—same as the volume of a regular beer bottle. A bladder in chronic urine retention can swell up to 300cl—six beer bottles. Overfilled, it can leak, causing urinary incontinence. The volume may pressure the kidney, causing kidney damage.
One day a man wakes up and is unable to pass urine. That’s when he runs to hospital.
Bad news. Every man can have prostate enlargement—if they live long enough.
Good news. Lifestyle changes can help men after 40 maintain good prostate health.
Nutrition. Red meat every day triples your chances of prostate disease. Milk every day doubles your risk. Without daily fruits and veggies, your risk quadruples.
Tomatoes are very good for men. If that is the only thing your wife can present in the evening, eat it with joy. It has loads of lycopene, a very potent natural antioxidant. Foods rich in zinc, like pumpkin seeds, are also good for men.
Zinc is an essential element for male sexuality and fertility, and men need it more than women. A man loses 15mg of zinc every time he ejaculates.
Even though your liver also needs zinc to break down alcohol, your drinking habit needs a loot-at when symptoms of prostate problems emerge. More fluid in means more fluid out. Drink less. Drink slowly.
Exercise. You need it for muscle tone, but when over 40, brisk walking is recommended. High impact routines like jogging puts pressure on the knees and cycling is bad for the prostate.
Sitting. Two-thirds of your weight rests on your pelvic bones when you sit. Don’t sit for long, as sitting longer makes you prone to prostate symptoms. If you must sit, use comfortable chairs and walk around as often as you can.
Dressing. Avoid tight underwear. It impacts circulation around the groin and heats it up. Your body temperature is around 37OC but your groins temperature to be around 33OC. For men, boxers are better than pant, but wear “breathable” clothing.
Smoking. Kill it. It affects blood vessels and hence circulation around the groin.
Intercourse. Regular sexual intercourse is good for the prostate. Celibates are more prone to prostate illness. Celibacy is a moral decision, not necessary a biological adaption. Your prostate gland is designed to empty its content regularly.