How does stress affect male health?

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Men's Health Advisor
@AVogelUK
Ask Dr. Jen Tan


24 September 2018

Stress and prostate health

One of the biggest health issues facing middle aged and older men is an enlarged prostate – it is estimated that around half of men over the age of 50 have been diagnosed with this problem.1 So, it’s a huge health concern but how does stress impact BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) symptoms?

Well, often stress and BPH exist in a vicious cycle as the more stressed you are, the worse symptoms become. However, due to the need to urinate more urgently and frequently, an enlarged prostate is quite a stressful condition in itself. Therefore, the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate can cause worry which, in turn, only makes the problem more severe.2  

Plus, as if this wasn’t enough, an enlarged prostate inevitably disrupts sleep which again only adds to the overall stress associated with the condition. Also, lack of sleep comes with its own set of health problems as it weakens the immune system and can even affect mood.3  

To help deal with the physical symptoms of an enlarged prostate you can turn to Prostasan. This is made from Saw Palmetto berries which work to relieve the urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate. However, if you know that stress is making the condition worse then read on to find some tips on how to tackle this.  

Stress and mental health

Whether you are male or female, stress is closely linked to mental health. That’s because stress is often accompanied by a number of emotional symptoms such as anxiety, low mood and, in extreme cases, depression.  Also, at times stress can feel unmanageable therefore if you already suffer from a mental health issue, stress could exasperate the problem.

Although men and women share an equal risk of developing mental health issues when suffering from severe stress, a study of over 24,000 Canadian adults found that men fared slightly worse. Although it was still likely that women would develop anxiety and depression as a result of stress, when they held demanding jobs or experienced job insecurity, the levels of major depression were higher amongst men.4

Stress and heart health

Although the issue is complicated, men could be more at risk of heart disease, partly because of how they deal with stress. 

Now let’s be clear, there’s a lack of evidence to suggest that a heart attack or heart disease can be caused by stress itself. However, coupled with existing heart problems, obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle, stress certainly has a part to play in poor heart health.

So, why does stress put men more at risk of heart problems? Well, it might have something to do with how each gender behaves. In general (though not always, of course) women are more likely to talk about their feelings and to take action to reduce their stress. Men on the other hand, are more likely to keep their issues to themselves meaning that stress has a bigger impact in the long term.

Stress and weight

The presence of stress in our lives can play havoc with our weight because at this time we tend to gravitate towards unhealthy foods that are quick, simple and comforting. On top of this, stress turns on the body’s well-established fight or flight response which can cause us to overeat. 

This fight or flight response was once needed to increase the chances of survival when an individual was faced with a life or death scenario such as the presence of a wild animal (this was back in the days when people had to hunt for a living). Dealing with this kind of stress would have cost the individual lots of energy and calories as, after all, you would have had to either fight the animal or run away. 

Today however, the kind of stress we face is less physical but the response is the same. Therefore, although the body doesn’t need the extra food, it still encourages us to eat it thus contributing to weight gain. 

On another note, high cortisol levels and lack of sleep are both linked to stress, as demonstrated by a study conducted by the University of Chicago. Researchers found that men who only managed to achieve 4 hours of sleep a night had cortisol levels that were 37% higher than men who got a full 8 hours of sleep.6  As cortisol stimulates our appetite, this just goes to show how closely stress is connected to weight gain.

Although weight gain is probably more common for men under a great deal of stress, it’s not uncommon for things to go the other way too. It must be noted that we may lose our appetites when we are feeling stressed thus causing us to lose weight.  

Stress and fertility

So, by now we know that stress can affect male health in a range of different ways however, a recent study investigated whether or not stress had an impact on male fertility as well. 

Researchers recruited 38 men between the ages of 38 and 49 who had to complete tests measuring their stress in the workplace, at home and in general. Alongside this they had to provide regular semen samples.

The results here showed that the sperm of men who went through two or more stressful events over the course of a year was less mobile. That’s not all though, it was also more likely that the sperm would be of an abnormal shape which could affect fertility.7  

Although it is unclear why exactly stress may impact upon male fertility, the researchers thought it could be to do with the fact that stress triggers oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body) which has been associated with poor semen quality.

Tips for dealing with stress

Whether you’re suffering from an enlarged prostate or are worried about your weight, if you know that stress is making the problem worse I’ve put together a few tips to help.

Have a look at our blogs

First of all, our website contains a wealth of information on dealing with stress. From tips for a good night’s rest, to helpful nutrition tips, there’s lots of advice to be gained from reading our blogs. I’ve listed a few of the most relevant ones below:

Keep an eye out for warning signs

In order to prevent the symptoms associated with stress from becoming a bigger issue, it’s important to stay alert to the warning signs of stress. This includes physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, a pounding heart, high blood pressure and indigestion. However, there are less obvious signs too such as moods swings, eating less or more than normal, poor sleep, lacking energy and losing interest in the things that you normally enjoy. 

Talk

I previously mentioned that we men are a little guilty of keeping our worries to ourselves which obviously makes things worse in the long term. Therefore, it probably comes as no surprise that my next piece of advice is to talk!

Whether it’s to family, friends, colleagues or your GP, sit down with someone and explain what is it is that’s causing you stress. Not only will this help you to offload some of your concerns, you may also receive some helpful advice in return.

Exercise

Whether it’s walking, cycling or thai-chi, exercise stimulates our happy hormones, also known as endorphins, which can improve mood. Not only that, it also provides a distraction when you’re feeling under pressure. Therefore, for more reasons than one, it is really important to stay active when you’re feeling stressed!

Take time out for yourself

In order to prevent stress from dominating your life it can also be beneficial to take some time out for yourself. So, go for a walk, visit friends, re-discover an activity you haven’t done in years – whatever it is you enjoy doing, make sure you make time for it!

Stress Relief Daytime

Finally, for symptoms of mild stress and anxiety you can rely on Stress Relief Daytime. Made with a mix of Valerian and hops, this is gentle and soothing!

 

1 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/24/pioneering-prostate-treatment-gets-nhs-green-light/ 

https://www.harvardprostateknowledge.org/stress-and-benign-prostatic-hyperplasia-bph 

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/ 

4 https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2006.104406 

5 https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/health-and-emotional-support/stress 

6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9415946 

7 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/277543.php  

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Here's what I recommend

As the A. Vogel Men’s Health expert, I recommend Prostasan® Saw Palmetto capsules to help relieve symptoms arising from enlarged prostate.

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Did you know?

BPH is a very common problem that increases the older men get, and around half of all men have an enlarged prostate by the age of 50. At the age of 80, this has risen to 80%

What you need to know about BPH

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