The famed Roman poet Virgil said more than 2,000 years ago, “The greatest wealth is health.” As another year passes between his time and ours, the substance of these sage words has not diminished a speck.
Yet everyday, I am sure most of us catch ourselves doing something that is not in the best interest of our health. We cannot always help that — the demands of our workday lives often force us to sit too long, to rush too much, and to feel a bit of stress.
Fortunately, there are a few practices we can adopt to help offset these unhealthy situations. I’d like to share my resolutions for one more year of better urinary health:
- Drink water when you feel thirsty: One of the best and most affordable preventative measures against kidney stones and urinary tract infections is water. Medical evidence suggests that drinking too few fluids can exacerbate a chemical oversaturation of the urine, causing stones to form. Further, increased water will dilute the urinary stream and enable the body to flush bacteria before an infection can begin.
- Learn how to perform self-examinations: Not every event that occurs beneath our skin requires an X-ray for detection. Scrotal masses are relatively easy to catch during a self-examination, which is recommended on a monthly basis. A scrotal mass is a lump or bulge that may indicate enlarged veins, inflammation, or cancerous or non-cancerous growths. Early detection means better chances of recovery.
- Have a regular PSA screening: All men over the age of 50 should commit to annual PSA (prostate-specific antigen) screenings, a blood test that measures the level of proteins produced by cells of the prostate. A man is 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than a woman is to be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Yet if detected early, prostate cancer is nearly 100 percent treatable.
- Monitor your use of pain medication: I’d like to use another quote here, by Benjamin Franklin: “The best doctor gives the least medicines.” True enough, the prolonged uses of pain medications, both prescription and over the counter, have been shown to increase the risk of kidney cancer. A 2011 study found that regular use of non-aspirin anti-inflammatory painkillers — by both men and women — raised the likelihood of kidney cancer by more than 50 percent.
- Don’t smoke: The chances of contracting or dying from bladder, kidneys or prostate cancer are significantly elevated if you smoke. For example, the risk of bladder and kidney cancer is twice as high among cigarette smokers than nonsmokers. And recent research shows smokers diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely than nonsmokers to die of the disease or experience a recurrence.
- Perform Kegel exercises: Many people wrongly assume that Kegels are strictly for women, but men can benefit as well. The exercise, which involves strongly contracting the pelvic muscles used to hold back urine, reinforces those muscles and can tighten and strengthen the pelvic floor. Kegels may be prescribed for both men and women with incontinence and for women with pelvic floor prolapse.
The poet Virgil died in 21 BC, at the ripe old age of 51. We are fortunate to have much longer lifelines, but our extended time also exposes us to health issues unheard of in Virgil’s day.
The onus is on us to keep healthy bodies because, as another sage man once said, “It’s the only place you have to live.”