Benign prostatic hyperplasia is common among older men

Science has not been able to explain successfully why, when all other organs shrink during the aging process, the prostate enlarges.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a common condition among older men. BPH is an enlargement of the prostate gland – a walnut-sized gland located below the bladder in men. The gland itself has a major role in facilitating fertility, though it does not impede sexual performance if removed. After the age of 60, the incidence of BPH rises significantly, says Rajiv Sood, senior consultant in urology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi. The other most common prostate complication is cancer.

“At 80 years, a man will have an 80 per cent chance of cancer of the prostate. However, the incidence in the Asian group is much less, 10 in 1,00,000 people, compared to African Americans, or the global average,” he explains.

Problems of BPH are categorised broadly in two groups – irritative and obstructive, says V.S.Natarajan, senior geriatrician. In the first category come symptoms such as urgency to pass urine, frequent urination and interrupted flow. This occurs because when the prostate enlarges it constricts the urinary passage. The more severe category is when there is complete obstruction of passage of urine. Treatment depends on the nature and severity of the symptom. When drugs do not help, patients are advised to go in for surgery to scoop out the insides of the prostate or vaporise it, Dr. Sood explains. Less invasive options are available, but may not be as effective.

Cancer of the prostate has to be operated on, and additionally, radiotherapy, brachytherapy and cryotherapy are available as well.

Role of nutrition

There is a significant role that nutrition plays in prevention of prostate cancer, Dr. Sood adds. Foods rich in trans fats and saturated fats increase risk. On the other hand, foods rich in anti-oxidants, including tomatoes, Omega 3 fatty acids (walnuts), fibre, and green leafy vegetables are likely to keep prostate cancer at bay. Additionally, he says, a healthy, active sexual life may offer some protection, while sexually transmitted diseases increase the likelihood of cancer.

Urologists also tell patients that a diet that comprises a good amount of food and vegetable intake may be able to reduce the risk for BHP.

Exercise recommended

Exercise is recommended over a sedentary life. Foods rich in zinc (pumpkin seeds) are said to improve prostate health.

One key point that both Dr. Natarajan and Dr. Sood stress is the need for men over 50 years to undergo an annual test of the serum Prostate-Specific Antigen, a reliable indicator of cancer prostate and volume of disease.