From an early age we women get used to managing the demands of changes in our bodies, from periods to the menopause. However, as some of us are only too aware, men often sail along happily until their prostate gland starts to play havoc in later life.
More than one in three men develops problems with passing urine after the age of 50. By 85, as many as 90 per cent are affected and their prostate gland getting bigger is the cause of the problem.
In most cases, this growth is not cancerous but is caused by a condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Even so, it’s vital he doesn’t ignore it, because left untreated BPH could lead to changes in his bladder, cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. So it’s important to encourage your partner to seek help.
So what should he – or you – be looking out for? The prostate is a small gland the size of a walnut found just beneath the bladder. It surrounds the tube that drains urine (the urethra) and if it grows larger, it compresses the urethra, blocking the flow of urine. This can lead to trouble passing urine out or with holding it in.
If your partner nips off to pee frequently, including several times at night or has to make an urgent dash to empty his bladder, he needs to get checked out. Ask him if it takes some time before urine starts to flow, if he has to strain to pee, if the stream is slow or if he has any urinary incontinence.
Once you’ve persuaded him that he does need to see the GP – not always easy, we know – his prostate will be tested by placing a gloved finger inside his bottom to feel the prostate. It is an effective way to gauge the size of the gland and whether its surface is smooth (usually indicating benign growth) or hard and irregular (which may be a sign of cancer). His GP can also do a blood test, which might help pick up if the prostate is cancerous.
If your partner has BPH and it’s mild, drinking less and avoiding too much caffeine, alcohol or fizzy drinks could help, as can bladder training. A low-fat diet high in Vitamin C-rich veg such as peppers and tomatoes, or foods containing zinc – baked beans, lamb and beef – may help to protect against BPH. If lifestyle changes don’t seem to help, his GP could prescribe drug treatment to control prostate growth or make it easier to pee.
Q. I’m confused about eggs – are they good for me or will they increase my cholesterol and make me constipated?
Dr Trisha says: Eggs are a great combination of protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals.
They do contain cholesterol, but we now understand that cholesterol in our diet does not increase the risk of heart disease in most healthy people. Two thirds of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver, and only about a third comes from the food you eat. It’s much more important to eat less saturated fat, because your liver uses it to build cholesterol.
As a result, the British Heart Foundation and the Department of Health have now relaxed their advice on eggs. Stick to eggs stamped with the British Lion safety mark (which guarantees no salmonella) and you can be sure that eggs are good for you.
- Dr Trisha writes a column every fortnight in Yours magazine. Ask Dr Trisha about your health problems by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.