Combatting prostate issues

I guess this is the time to wish one and all Seasons Greetings and a prosperous new year. That prosperity may come either as a spiritual bonus, financial bonus or in health. I will take any, but would prefer the spiritual, as that will take care of the others or it will affect how I understand the other two.

Anyhow, this is not a Sunday, neither am I the resident preacher, so let’s move right in to our topic for this week.

Barbados is blessed with an abundance of health information. I would not say bombarded, even though that might be the best word, but in a positive way, with leaflets, radio experts, newspaper articles, magazines and Internet mailings.

Honestly, if we are mindful and sensible about our health status, we can prevent a lot of the health challenges that could befall us in life.

Some experts believe that every man will develop some prostate issue, and may even develop some degree of prostate cancer if he lives long enough. I take that to mean that, if men could live to 150 years of age, it is possible that they will be confronted with prostate cancer.

Thankfully the most common is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, which is a swelling of the prostate gland. I will use the space afforded me to discuss what is BPH or even prostate cancer. I will look at how we as men can ensure that the tests we go for are as accurate as possible:

1. Make sure you don’t have a urinary tract infection.

A bacterial infection in your urinary tract can cause PSA levels to rise temporarily, so if you suspect you may have a UTI, you should have a urine test before your PSA test just to make sure. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include an unusually frequent need to urinate, an intense urge to urinate, pain or burning sensation during urination, and cloudy or foul-smelling urine.

Symptoms associated with a UTI that has reached the kidneys include nausea and vomiting, pain or pressure in the bladder area; fever with or without chills, and pain in the side or upper back. If you do have an infection, you will be given medication. Six weeks after you have completed the course of medication, you can have your PSA test.

2. Avoid vigorous exercise and activities that stimulate or “jostle” the prostate, including bike riding, motorcycling, and riding a horse, ATV, or tractor, or prostate massage, for example, for 48 hours before your test.

3. Abstain from sexual activity for 48 hours before your test. Ejaculation within this time period may affect PSA results, especially in younger men.

4. Wait at least six weeks after undergoing certain procedures including: prostate biopsy, transurethral resection of the prostate, urethral catheter, cystoscopy (procedure in which tube with a camera is passed through the penis to look into the bladder), or other procedures that involve the prostate. Consult your doctor before having your PSA tested if you have had any type of prostate procedure.

5. Have the DRE test. If you have a PSA test and a prostate examination scheduled (including a digital rectal examination [DRE]), make sure you have the PSA test done first. Although a DRE or other parts of a prostate exam should not affect PSA levels, doctors generally recommend doing the PSA test first as a precaution.

6. Stop taking certain medications before your test. Talk to your doctor if you are taking statins, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, medications to control urinary problems such as finasteride or dustasteride, or other medications, natural supplements, and herbal remedies, such as saw palmetto. All of these substances have the potential to affect PSA levels.

Studies are showing that regular exercise amongst man over 50 years old can reduce the chances of developing prostate cancer. Obviously reducing your alcohol intake is also helpful. Excess weight can increase your chances of prostate cancer.

Now I know I said I would not be explaining what is the prostate or even what is prostate cancer, but I think I must talk about the food we eat.

Eat more of these:

* Tomato-based products. Soups, pasta sauces, and tomato-based juices, guava, watermelon or other red skinned fruits or vegetables increase your body’s stores of lycopene, a carotenoid found mainly in tomatoes. This phytochemical helps limit damage to cells like those in the prostate, and at least three studies have found that tomato intake and lycopene levels are linked to a reduced incidence of prostate cancer.

* Beverages containing polyphenols. Green tea and pomegranate juice are rich in antioxidant-containing polyphenols, which help prevent cell oxidation (chemical damage), and stop the spread of cancerous cells.

* Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and bok choy all contain compounds that have been shown to protect cells from DNA damage. Several studies have shown that a high intake of these types of veggies is associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer.

Eat less of these:

* Meats cooked at high temperatures. Grilling or saut?ing meat at high temperatures creates a type of carcinogen that has been found to cause prostate cancer in animal models. Charbroiling red meat or chicken with its skin intact produces yet another type of carcinogen. Both of these cancer causers are also found in tobacco smoke.

As you enjoy your grilled meats, keep blackening to a minimum. Try recipes that call for cooking meat over a lower temperature or in foil. If you grill frequently, include some seafood, grilled veggies and fruits, and other choices in your menus.

* Sugary, processed foods. Sugar is a prime source of energy for many types of cancer cells, including those involved in prostate cancer. The more unneeded sugar you take in, the more existing tumours will be stimulated and grow. Some animal studies suggest that the simple act of cutting sugar from your diet can slow prostate cancer growth. Plus, feeding on sugary snacks makes it easier to gain weight, which is a know cancer risk factor.

* Dairy products. Though the exact link between dairy product consumption and prostate cancer is unknown, plenty of studies have found that people who consume more dairy products have a slightly higher risk of developing prostate cancer. It’s believed that calcium and lactose may be part of the problem, as it’s not just whole milk, but low-fat and skim as well that have been implicated in this increased risk.

That said, men do need healthy intakes of calcium. Men over 18 should aim to get 1,000 milligrams a day, and bump that up to 1,200 mg/day starting at age 51. A cup of skim milk has about 300 mg of calcium; some fortified cereals can have as much as 1,000 mg per serving.

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