Exercise can keep prostate healthy


September 29, 1992|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer/United Feature Syndicate

Medical experts have known for some time that regular exercise can help prevent heart disease and heart attacks. A recent report from researchers at Harvard and Stanford universities shows exercise also may help prevent cancer of the prostate -- the second most commonly occurring cancer, after skin cancer -- in American men.

Prostate cancer is second only to lung cancer (almost always caused by smoking) as a cause of death in American men. It is associated with venereal warts, a sexually transmitted disease, and a high-fat diet.

But this new study links prostate cancer with a lack of exercise.

Men with prostate cancer have higher levels of the male hormone testosterone. The researchers found prostate cancer cells transplanted into laboratory animals will grow only if the animals have high blood levels of testosterone as well. Injecting certain animals with large amounts of testosterone can cause prostate cancer.

Since highly trained athletes have lower levels of testosterone and heavy exercise lowers testosterone for a few hours, experts now believe exercise may help prevent prostate cancer.

Every man over age 50 should see a doctor for an annual digital examination and blood test for prostate specific antigen. High levels of prostate specific antigen are not a sign of prostate cancer, but a sudden rise from one year to the next usually is.

The vast majority of men who develop prostate cancer will have their disease lie dormant for years. But for some, it can spread rapidly throughout the body. Both scenarios make annual testing important.

So, it may be prudent for a man to try preventing prostate cancer by eating a low-fat diet, avoiding promiscuous sexual contact that increases the risk of venereal warts and, of course, exercising regularly.

Q: I sometimes feel like I'm going to pass out when I get up suddenly after sitting or lying down. What could be the cause?

A: You probably don't have anything seriously wrong, though poor circulation can cause your symptoms.

When you get up suddenly, gravity pulls blood from your brain. The brain does not store significant energy sources and must get all of its fuel from the blood flowing through it. If the blood flow is shut off, the brain stops functioning and you feel dizzy or nauseous. You can even pass out. Fortunately, with your next heartbeat, blood is pushed back up to your brain and you feel normal.

This reaction is called orthostatic hypotension and is usually harmless. See your doctor to make sure you don't have blocked arteries or an irregular heartbeat.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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