What are the risk factors for BPH?
If you have read any of my previous blogs, you'll be aware that a diagnosis of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia usually means you're suffering from symptoms such as frequent and urgent urination.
It is thought that a few factors can increase the risk of developing the problem, which are:
- Being overweight
- Your family history and ethnicity
Let's look at these in more detail and find out how to manage BPH.
There is a lot of research to indicate that being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing BPH.1
Obesity can, for example, cause the following issues, all of which are favourable for the development of BPH:
- Increased inflammation in the body
- Reduced mobility
- Poor circulation
- Increased incidence of oxidative stress
Men who are overweight also tend to have higher levels of the hormone oestrogen which can increase the size of the prostate gland.
Another problem is that being overweight increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which in itself has been associated with BPH.2
2. Family history and ethnicity
If a family member (and particularly a close family member such as an uncle, father or brother) has been known to suffer from BPH, if may raise an individual's risk of developing the problem.
Also, the condition is thought to be more prevalent amongst black and Hispanic individuals. In fact, a study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Washington found that the risk of developing BPH was 41% higher amongst black and Hispanic men than it was for white men.3
So, tackling issues that increase the chance of developing BPH, such as inflammation and mobility, will be particularly relevant if you have additional risk factors such as these.
Men over the age of 45 have a much higher chance of developing BPH than younger men. As we age further, the risk increases even more. In fact, one study has indicated that as many as 40% of men over the age of 70 suffer from enlarged prostate symptoms.4
Hormonal changes go some way to explaining why the condition is more prevalent in older men.
If you want to know specifics, basically beyond the age of 30 the hormone testosterone starts to be metabolised into DHT (di-hydrotestosterone). DHT builds up in the prostate gland and, as it is inflammatory, it can cause an increase in the size of the prostate. As there will now be less room for urine to flow, the result is a selection of urinary symptoms such as difficulty emptying the bladder.
Several lifestyle factors can increase the likelihood of developing BPH symptoms. These are:
- Lack of exercise
- Poor diet
- High alcohol consumption
One scientific review found that moderate to vigorous activity could reduce BPH risk by about 25%.5 This is, in part, down to the positive effect that exercise has on weight. As I have discussed, being overweight is another risk factor for enlarged prostate symptoms.
As a poor diet can also lead to weight gain, we can see how this too can raise the risk of developing BPH.
Alcohol, on the other hand, can make symptoms more noticeable, plus there is also some emerging research to suggest it could increase the risk of BPH symptoms.
What to do about an enlarged prostate
So, there are some factors beyond our control that can contribute to BPH, and others that are very much issues we can address early on to reduce the likelihood of getting symptoms. However, what should be done when a diagnosis of BPH has been confirmed?
- Saw Palmetto – this herb has traditionally been used to relieve enlarged prostate symptoms. More recently, research has indicated that Saw Palmetto can reduce levels of inflammation in the prostate.6
- Pumpkin seed – pumpkin seed oil has been shown in research to reduce the suffering causing by symptoms of BPH; plus, it may reduce the need for treatment.7 Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, which is very good for the prostate gland, alongside Essential Fatty Acids which can reduce inflammation.
- Reduce alcohol consumption – this is inflammatory, so it is probable that it will contribute to or worsen symptoms.
- Medical treatment – once your doctor has confirmed BPH as the cause of your symptoms, they will discuss the various treatment options available to you, such as medication or, in more serious cases, surgery.