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Getting the vital information about your prostate health

Dec 5, 2011, 8:57 a.m.

First, the good news. If you're a guy over the age of 55 who's worried about his prostrate health , take heart. There's absolutely no connection between having an enlarged prostate and developing prostate cancer. Now that we've got the great news out of the way and you probably feel a whole lot more relaxed about things, we can answer a few of your burning questions.

What causes an enlarged prostate?

Believe it or not, doctors don't really have an answer to this other than to say it's the result of hormonal changes in the body that start occurring the older a man gets. There are some risk factors that can make it worse, however, like being overweight and having too much red meat in your diet.

How do I know I've got an enlarged prostate?

Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include:

  • An increased need to go to the bathroom
  • Having a tough time getting "started"
  • A weak stream
  • The feeling that you haven't fully drained your bladder after urinating

Do I need surgery or drugs to treat my enlarged prostate?

Doctors are typically reticent to suggest surgery for an enlarged prostate unless they've exhausted all other options. One of the main reasons are the complications that can result from surgery, including incontinence and erectile dysfunction -- two issues that you might consider far worse. Fortunately, there are other treatments you can try.

Prescription medication -- Your doctor might prescribe alpha blockers which relax the muscles of your bladder and prostate and make urine flow easier, or 5 alpha reductase inhibitors which can actually shrink your prostate.

Herbal supplements -- Natural saw palmetto supplements can be purchased in health food stores, don't require a prescription, and can be effective at treating the symptoms of your enlarged prostate. If you're not into taking costly prescription meds and don't want surgery, saw palmetto supplements could be your first step to treating your prostrate health.

Before you do anything, first talk to a doctor if you're experiencing symptoms of an enlarged prostate. Regardless of whether you are or aren't, it's important to get a yearly prostate exam once you hit the age of 50 -- and even earlier, if you've got a family history of prostrate health problems.

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