Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the most common cause of prostate enlargement. As a man ages, BPH becomes more common. About half of all men between the ages of 51 and 60 develop it, and up to 90 percent of men over age 80 will have it.
During a man’s lifetime, the prostate has two main growth periods. The first is when he goes through puberty, during which the prostate will double in size. The second growth period starts around age 25, after which the prostate will begin to grow again. It is natural for the prostate to grow, and this is what is referred to as BPH. This benign condition does not lead to prostate cancer, but the two can coexist.
Specific symptoms of BPH include:
- A hesitant, interrupted, weak urine stream
- Urgency, leaking, or dribbling
- A sense of incomplete emptying
- More frequent urination, especially at night
A man experiencing any of these symptoms should consult his physician to seek treatment, as there are many ways to deal with BPH. There are medications to choose from and effective surgical treatments with few side effects if surgery is necessary.
However, lifestyle changes can be another method of reducing symptoms of BPH. Before automatically believing that the symptoms are due only to BPH, all men should have a yearly prostate exam to rule out the possibility of prostate cancer. Once it is determined to be a benign enlarged prostate, men can do seven simple lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms of BPH and bring relief:
- Being tensed or nervous can cause a man to urinate more frequently. Regular exercise, practicing yoga, and meditation can relive stress that may help reduce the urge to urinate.
- Each time a man urinates, he needs to empty the bladder completely in order to reduce the need for several trips to the bathroom. BPH makes a man feel like he needs to urinate frequently, taking the opportunity to use the restroom about every three hours even if he doesn’t feel like he needs to. Always urinate before leaving the house and before going to bed. Doubling voiding is another strategy—when it feels like you’re done urinating, wait a few seconds and try again.
- Sometimes certain prescriptions or over-the-counter medications may contribute to the problem. Decongestant medications, like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and antihistamines, like diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can interfere with urination. Some prescription medications can also aggravate BPH. Diuretics used for high blood pressure can increase urinary frequency and some antidepressants can decrease urine flow. A doctor should review all medications, check to see if dosages can be adjusted, change the schedule of when medications are taken, or prescribe different medication that causes fewer urinary issues.
- Avoid drinking fluids at least three hours before bedtime. Beverages containing caffeine or alcohol are diuretics that stimulate the kidneys to make urine, thereby increasing the likelihood of nighttime urination. They can also affect the muscle tone of the bladder.
- As annoying as urinary frequency is, other symptoms of BPH that are troubling include dribbling, leaking and feeling a sense of urgency. One way to control these symptoms is by strengthening the muscles around the bladder neck with Kegel exercises. Kegels can be done by contracting the muscles that are used to keep from urinating and squeeze tightly for 10 seconds. Then, relax the muscles and repeat about 10 times. Doing these exercises three to five times a day may improve bladder control.
- To keep the prostate healthy choose healthy foods, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Another important substance to be consuming are omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel, halibut and sardines.
- Any man experiencing symptoms of BPH should always consult a urologist to get a definitive diagnosis and treatment for his condition. If BPH symptoms are becoming too hard to manage, it’s time to call the doctor. Waiting too long may increase the need for more invasive measures, such as surgery. BPH does not cause prostate cancer but the symptoms are similar, which is another reason to seek the advice of a urologist.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi’s blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook.