Stress and Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH)

August 14, 2021

Benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH is a common, progressive urological condition, typically beginning around age 50 with 50% of men exhibiting some signs of BPH at age 60. By age 85, 90% of men will have signs of BPH.

BPH is normal prostate tissue growth which begins to obstruct the outlet of the bladder, squeezing down on the urethra. It is not a cancerous condition and does not predispose one to cancer. BPH is a progressive disease and can lead to bladder damage, chronic infections, the inability to urinate, blood in the urine, and even kidney damage if left untreated. Typical symptoms of BPH include: 

  • Urinary frequency
  • Urinary urgency
  • A sensation of the bladder not fully emptying after urination
  • Straining to begin a urinary stream
  • Getting up throughout the night to urinate
  • Frequent prostate or urinary tract infections
  • Stopping and starting during urination
  • A weak urinary stream

BPH occurs when the cells of the prostate gland begin to multiply. These additional cells cause the prostate gland to swell or enlarge. The enlargement of the prostate gland squeezes the urethra and limits the flow of urine causing urinary symptoms associated with BPH.

But what about stress? Does stress cause BPH? The short answer is no. But the longer version does indicate that stress can cause symptoms of BPH to get worse. Stress causes a “fight-or-flight” response that releases adrenaline into the body. Adrenaline causes the bladder to effectively “shut down.” 

Studies have found that men who experienced recent stress had more difficulty emptying their bladders than those who were not stressed. Additionally, men who had the most stress had more severe BPH symptoms than those who did not. This makes managing stress another way to help alleviate the symptoms of BPH. Below are seven simple techniques that can be easily incorporated into daily life to release stress and help ward off the adrenaline rush that make BPH symptoms worse.

Exercise helps burn off the hormones released during stress or stressful events. Exercises that combines physical cardiovascular activity and relaxation are especially beneficial. Twenty to thirty minutes a day of walking, yoga, tai chi, qigong or a light jog can do the trick, reducing BPH symptoms 25%. Another added benefit is weight loss, which is an overall win-win for your health.

Avoid the binge
When stressed, many will turn to caffeine, alcohol, food or nicotine to relax. Not only are these methods ineffective at reducing stress, they can actually cause more stress and worsen BPH symptoms. Obesity has been linked to BPH, and smokers are more likely to develop BPH symptoms. Both alcohol and caffeine will irritate the bladder and the prostate temporarily increasing BPH symptoms.

Work on your breath
Concentrating on slowing the rate of your breath for several minutes a day will slow the body’s “fight or flight” response and reduce the amount of adrenaline dumped into the body. Increase this to several minutes a day, a few times throughout the day, and you’ll give your body a break. If you can find a quiet place and take a few slow, deep breaths concentrating on your breath only, you’ll beat back the stress.

Trick your mind to focus on your body
Body scanning is another method to take your mind off the stress. It’s a distraction technique that can be relaxing. It involves quietly scanning your body – starting at your head and working down to your feet, paying attention to each body part as you go. As you come to each part of your body, focus on letting go of all the tension in that area.

Learn to meditate
Breath work and body scanning are similar to meditation. If you can carve out 10-20 minutes of the day to sit quietly to mediate it will reduce your stress in the moment and help alleviate stress throughout the day. There are apps for mediation that include guided meditations or simple timed mediations to get you started and keep you on track.

Chill Out
Any form of relaxation helps the body decrease its fight-or-flight adrenaline dump, releasing a a chemical that opens up blood vessels (nitric oxide). Read a good book, go for a walk, listen to some relaxing music, take a hot shower… indulge in activities that help you to unwind.

Strengthen your core
Careers today are not only stressful, but sedentary. Jobs that keep you sitting all day at a desk are on the rise. Of course there are also transport jobs where you drive for most of the day. Prolonged sitting can weaken your pelvic floor and core muscles; these muscles help with bladder emptying. If your job keeps you sitting for long periods of time, incorporate daily exercises (planks) or classes (yoga, pilates) that’ll strengthen your pelvic floor and core muscles.

The prevalence of BPH is widespread and men typically seek treatment long after symptoms have become bothersome and disruptive to their lives. In some cases, due to chronic untreated BPH symptoms, irreversible damage is done to the bladder. Don’t add stress to an already stressful condition. For more information about BPH and treatment options, contact Austin Urology Institute at (512) 694-8888 to make an appointment with a provider.