Listen up, fellas. When it comes to your prostate, it’s never too early to talk about risk prevention and proactive choices. The more you know, the more you can do to keep your prostate healthy — no matter your age.
That said, there does come an age where prostate health plays a bigger role. So when should you start taking action? And what should that action be? Keep reading for everything you need to know.
Your prostate 101
If you don’t know much about your prostate, no judgments. Now is a great time to learn.
The prostate gland is a part of the male reproductive system, located just below the bladder. It helps produce semen, which is vital for childbirth (but you probably already knew that one). The prostate starts off the size of a walnut, but it can gradually enlarge starting at age 25.
There are some theories about why this growth happens but nobody is 100% sure. What we do know is that an enlarged prostate can lead to potential issues as men age, like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis. In fact, these conditions affect up to 50% of men over the age of 50.
What is BPH?
BPH is one of the most common chronic urological diseases for men. It’s caused by prostate enlargement and an overgrowth of prostate tissue. Since the prostate actually surrounds the urethra, all of this extra tissue can squeeze the urethra tube and bladder, blocking the normal flow of urine.
The result? LUTS — also known as lower urinary tract symptoms. These frustrating (and sometimes painful) symptoms include:
- Struggling to start peeing
- An inconsistent or weak stream of urine
- Inability to empty the bladder
- Peeing more often than usual, especially at night
- A strong, sudden urge to pee
- Incontinence, also known as leaking
What are the signs of prostate problems?
If you’re experiencing any of the lower urinary tract symptoms listed above, that might be a sign that your prostate is acting up. But there are a few other red flags that point to trouble brewing.
BPH can cause bacterial infections, like urinary tract infections. This might lead to a burning sensation or abdominal pain when urinating. In more serious and rare cases, men with BPH might experience kidney stones, a bladder tumour, or blood in the urine.
Men with LUTS can also struggle in the bedroom. Symptoms like erectile dysfunction and low libido might mean there’s a problem with your prostate.
At what age do prostate problems start?
In general, prostate problems can start up around 45 and become more prevalent as men get older. About 1 in 4 men experience BPH symptoms by age 55 and half of men experience them by age 75.
Some men are more at risk than others. If you have a family history of BPH or LUTS, if you don’t exercise regularly, or if you have other medical conditions like obesity, you’re more likely to develop prostate problems at a younger age.
But even without those conditions, healthy men in their 60s have a 60% chance of getting BPH. And once they hit 70? That number jumps to 90%.
Can a 20-year-old have an enlarged prostate?
It’s possible, but extremely rare. Studies show that men can experience BPH symptoms as early as their 20s or 30s. Even so, the prostate typically doesn’t even start growing until age 25.
If you’re a man in your 20s with urinary symptoms, talk to your doctor. Chances are it’s being caused by other issues, but it’s always best to check.
What age should you go for a prostate exam?
A prostate exam helps your doctor check for any abnormalities. Some abnormalities might mean nothing, while others might be a sign of prostate cancer.
On average, men ages 55 to 69 get the most benefit from a prostate exam. If you’re in this age bracket, ask your doctor about undergoing a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening test. It’s one of the most common prostate exams and it gives your doctor a gauge of how much PSA is in your blood. Normal PSA levels are under 4 ng/ml of blood, while a high PSA level would be anything over 10 ng/ml. For some men, a digital rectal exam (DRE) might be a part of the screening, too.
Depending on a few risk factors, you might want to get a prostate exam earlier rather than later. For example:
- If you’re at an average risk for prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years, get screened at 50.
- If you have a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with prostate cancer younger than 65 — or if you’re of African descent — you have a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. Get screened at 45.
- If you have more than one first-degree relative who was diagnosed with prostate cancer younger than 65, you’re at very high risk. Get screened at 40.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men. But like many other cancers, catching it early can significantly improve your survival rate. That’s why it’s so important for men 40 years or older to talk to their doctor about their prostate health, family history, and when a prostate exam might be the right choice.
But before you jump into a screening, make sure to have a risk-benefit discussion with your physician. Believe it or not, sometimes the risk of a prostate exam, like overdiagnosis, can actually outweigh the benefits. For this reason, it’s recommended that men under 40 or over 70 don’t get a prostate exam.
What is the normal weight of the prostate?
A healthy, happy, adult prostate typically weighs about 20 to 25 grams. As a prostate enlarges, its volume gradually increases. If you have BPH, that means your swollen prostate gland could be 4 to 5 times bigger than it initially was.
What is the best age to start taking care of your prostate?
We know, we know. We just gave you a lot of information for a lot of different age brackets. But ultimately, age 45 (or a bit before that) is a great time to start giving your prostate a little extra love.
How? There are a number of ways, but leading a healthy lifestyle might be at the top of the list. To reduce the risk of BPH or prostate cancer, eat a healthy diet with tons of fruits and vegetables, exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, and take supplements that are clinically proven to support prostate and urinary tract health.