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Caregiver Training Blog

Advice for Caregivers: How to Improve Prostate Health


Advice-for-Caregivers-How-to-Improve-Prostate-HealthMen don’t seem to like talking to their doctors about prostate issues and erectile dysfunction—even though both are fairly common and treatable among older men.

It’s time to break the taboo and talk about what’s going on down there because sometimes pain can signal something more serious going on in the body.

Health Care Hesitancy

In 2001, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report showing that women are 33% more likely than men to visit doctors. That’s unfortunate, because the CDC’s latest National Vital Statistics Report shows an average 5‑year difference in life expectancy between females and males. 

Females live longer, but men are less likely to seek health care. That’s cause for concern.

Let’s talk about some of the basics of prostate health.

The Story of the Prostate

The prostate is a walnut‑sized gland at the base of the penis that wraps around the urethra.

The Urology Care Foundation describes the prostate as a gland that “is essential for fertility but not for erections, and just happens to enlarge, rather than shrink, with age.”

Many of the issues with the prostate are common as men age, and non‑life threatening. But it’s good to keep an eye out for signs of serious problems.

Prostate Enlargement

As the prostate enlarges, the space for urine decreases, which is why men need to go to the bathroom more often as they age. The technical term for this normal process of enlargement is benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). 

Some doctors treat BPH with alpha‑blockers that relax the muscles in the urethral channel. Some folks use herbal remedies like zinc (in pumpkin seeds), stinging nettle, rye grass pollen extract, pygeum africanum, and saw palmetto. Most studies are showing mixed results with these herbal formulations, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplement.

Some doctors prescribe more serious drugs called 5‑alpha‑reductase inhibitors to shrink the prostate to aid in urination, and some men undergo laser procedures to get rid of excess tissue.


About 10% of men experience the unforgettable sensation of prostatitis, where the prostate becomes inflamed and urination is incredibly painful. You can avoid getting to this stage by staying hydrated, peeing regularly, and treating BPH.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. The good news is that it grows slowly (doubling in size every 2‑3 years) and has excellent cure rates. In fact, the Urology Care Foundation reports that a man is 8 to 10 times more likely to die of heart disease than prostate cancer. Many older men live with prostate cancer without even knowing it.

There are things you can do to help prevent prostate cancer, and many of them will also help your heart. 

7 Tips for Prostate Health

  1. Reduce animal fats, carbohydrates, and sugar and eat more fish and soy protein.
  2. Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants. Examples are broccoli, spinach, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, strawberries, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and bell peppers.
  3. Get moving. Even moderate exercise can help with weight and stress reduction.
  4. Drink green tea.
  5. Treat enlarged prostate (BPH) with a 5‑alpha reductase inhibitor (some studies show that it reduces the occurrence of low‑grade prostate cancer by 25%).
  6. Get screened for prostate cancer between the ages of 55 and 70.
  7. Pay attention to erectile dysfunction, and talk to your doctor about it.

Breaking the Taboo: Male Sexual Dysfunction

In this mmlearn video, Dr. LeRoy A. Jones, a board‑certified urologist, provides a helpful overview of male sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction, orgasm capacity, ejaculation, libido (interest), and partner health/happiness.

He starts out with an anatomy lesson, describing how interference with blood flow causes erectile dysfunction. 

How common is this issue? Dr. Jones shows that 40% of men aged 40 experience some level of erectile dysfunction, with the level increasing approximately 10% each decade throughout the later half of life.

He also discusses the different causes of erectile dysfunction. A full 70% is related to organic causes, or a disease state such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or cholesterol, or smoking. These conditions cause injury to blood vessels that need to function for erections.

Dr. Jones also notes that erectile dysfunction can be an early sign of heart disease, and that obesity is a risk factor for both erectile dysfunction and heart disease.

Treating Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction has a range of treatments, beginning with oral medications, psychosexual therapy, and vacuum constriction devices. The next level includes intraurethral therapy and injection therapy, or a combination of the two. And finally, there are surgical options for some cases.

Dr. Jones adds that some of the more conservative treatments have low patient satisfaction levels, and he introduces another device called the inflatable penile prosthesis, or penile implant, which is inserted during a short outpatient visit. 

Low Testosterone

Another issue that can cause erectile dysfunction is male hypogonadism, or low levels of testosterone. This syndrome can lead to a depressed mood, loss of energy and fatigue, osteoporosis, and decreased sexual desire.

Not everyone is screened for low testosterone, but people with certain conditions such as diabetes, HIV, end‑stage renal disease, and obstructive lung disease should get screened for this condition. Many treatment options are available if you are diagnosed with low testosterone.

Healthy Prostate, Healthy Men

Here’s some good news: If you are someone with a prostate, or you are a family caregiver, following advice for healthy living—like getting regular exercise and eating a heart‑healthy diet—will also improve prostate health.

And finally, don’t be shy about talking to your family and your doctor about your prostate. 

Catching problems early makes them easier to treat, and many prostate problems are treatable.


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