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What makes your prostate grow? This is a question posed by many men, especially given that about 50 percent of men have an enlarged prostate by the time they reach age 60, and 90 percent fall into that category by the time they are 85. Yet despite the fact that an enlarged prostate (aka, benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH) is so common, exactly why it grows is still uncertain.
A bit of perspective is helpful. The prostate goes through two main periods of growth. The first occurs during early puberty, which is when the gland doubles in size. At that point, the prostate is typically referred to as being the size of a walnut. The second growth phase begins around age 25 and continues for most of the remainder of a man’s life. For some men, that growth is much less than in others. The end result may be a prostate that is as big as an apricot or even a lemon.
What makes your prostate grow in size?
Experts have proposed a few theories about why a man’s prostate tends to grow as they get older. One is that a rise in the levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) causes the gland to increase in size.
Men with low levels of DHT do not have an enlarged prostate.
Another hormone named as a possible culprit is estrogen (estradiol). As men age, levels of testosterone in the bloodstream tend to decline, which leaves a greater percentage of estrogen. Elevated estrodial levels have been shown to be an indicator of an enlarged prostate.
Here are a few other factors that have been shown to play a role in causing the prostate to grow in size.
- Inflammatory foods. Certain foods trigger an inflammatory response in the body, including red meat, processed/refined foods, sugary foods, eggs, poultry, alcohol, and dairy products. Avoid or limit your consumption of these foods as much as possible, especially if you already have an enlarged prostate.
- Overweight/obesity. Carrying excess weight, especially around the abdomen, is a risk factor for an enlarged prostate. One reason why being overweight or obese may cause the prostate to grow is that testosterone levels tend to be reduced in obese men, and an accompanying increase in estradiol can then boost the activity of DHT.
- Having diabetes. The characteristics of diabetes, including insulin resistance, obesity, and high sugar levels, increase the progression of prostate growth. In addition, diabetes is associated with blood vessel damage, which also may contribute to an increase in the size of the prostate.
- High LDL cholesterol. Some research shows that men who have diabetes and high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are more likely to have an enlarged prostate than men with normal LDL levels. However, not all studies have revealed a relationship between a prostate that becomes enlarged and high LDL cholesterol levels.
- Metabolic syndrome. Men with an enlarged prostate have been shown to be significantly more likely to have metabolic syndrome than men with an abnormally large prostate. Metabolic syndrome is a disorder that is characterized by obesity, insulin resistance or glucose intolerance, high C-reactive protein levels in the blood (a sign of inflammation), obesity, and elevated levels of fibrinogen or plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 in the bloodstream.
- Atherosclerosis. When artery walls become thick and hard with plaque, you have atherosclerosis, and you may also be at increased risk of developing an enlarged prostate.
- Lack of exercise. It is proposed that being sedentary may contribute to an enlarged prostate because physical exercise helps reduce inflammation, the risk of type 2 diabetes, and obesity. In addition, research has shown that exercise can significantly reduce severe nocturia (getting up to urinate often during the night) when compared with not exercising.
- Weak immune function. Having a weakened immune system, often caused by poor diet, lack of exercise, insufficient sleep, unmanaged stress, and other lifestyle factors, can increase the risk of an enlarged prostate.
Men who are concerned about the possibility their prostate may grow and interfere with their urinary function can investigate ways to shrink the prostate. After all, just because no one is sure why the prostate grows larger, it does not mean steps can’t be taken to help shrink it
What’s the relationship between PSA and enlarged prostate?
Another question some men ask about a growing prostate is whether there is a relationship between prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels and an enlarged prostate. Men with BPH may have elevated levels of PSA, a substance often associated with prostate cancer. One reason for the high PSA in men with BPH is the larger number of prostate cells in the gland causes more PSA to be produced by the cells of the membrane that covers the prostate. Further testing may be recommended by your doctor if your PSA is elevated to help determine whether the high PSA is related to the enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. In the meantime, there are natural ways to lower your PSA should you wish to try them.
The most important things to remember about living with a prostate that is growing are to eat a nutritious diet, exercise often, maintain a healthy weight, treat any symptoms of an enlarged prostate with natural methods whenever possible, practice good hygiene, and see a medical professional if you need additional assistance with symptoms or have other concerns.