The exact cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia is largely unknown, but experts believe that the effect of aging on male sex hormones may play an important role. There are two main growth periods that the prostate goes through, the first is during puberty and the second is around the age of 25. During the first growth phase, the prostate typically doubles in size. During the second growth phase, the prostate increases in size again and continues to grow throughout the rest of the man’s life. Benign prostatic hyperplasia typically occurs during this second growth period.
The prostate belongs to the male reproductive system, along with the penis, the seminal vesicles, and the testicles. It surrounds the urethra, which is a tube that empties urine from the bladder and is found below the bladder. In healthy men, the prostate is about the size of a walnut and weighs approximately one ounce. When the prostate grows, the enlarged gland puts pressure on the urethra and the bladder wall thickens. Over time, this may lead to a weakened bladder and a narrow urethra, resulting in urinary retention which is an inability to fully empty the bladder.
The risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia is higher for individuals with a family history of prostate issues or testicular abnormalities, while benign prostatic hyperplasia does not develop in men who have had their testicles removed earlier in life. The risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia is also greater for men above the age of 40, and it affects white and black men more than it affects Asian men. Moreover, black men often experience symptoms at a younger age than white men. Other risk factors include having erectile dysfunction, not getting enough physical exercise, and having certain medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Erectile dysfunction, or ED for short, refers to a man’s inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Another term for ED is impotence, though this has become a less common word for erectile dysfunction in recent years. Sufferers of type 2 diabetes either resist the effects of insulin or do not produce enough insulin to maintain a normal level of sugar in the blood. Obesity is a medical condition that is characterized by excess body fat, which puts individuals at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Cardiovascular disease encompasses a variety of conditions that have to do with the blood vessels of the heart.
While there is no sure way to prevent BPH, staying active, and eating healthy can help to keep both weight and hormone levels in check, thereby reducing an individual’s risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia. Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle are particularly helpful, as well as limiting the number of fluids consumed before bedtime and cutting down on alcohol and caffeine. Fluids make you pee more in general, and alcohol and caffeine can irritate the bladder. It’s also a good idea to cut back on beta-blockers if possible since this medication used to treat migraines and high blood pressure can actually increase an individual’s risk for BPH.