November 27, 2011

MALAYSIA: The aging prostrate

PENANG, Malaysia / The Star / Health / November 27, 2011

By Tee Shiao Eek

With the expected increase in the numbers of elderly men in the country, certain health issues are going to become even more important.

MALAYSIA, like many other high- and middle-income countries in Asia and around the world, is preparing for the population boom of older people (above aged 65) in this decade.

From the perspective of men’s health, this ageing trend brings about unique challenges as we struggle to maintain the health and well-being of an ageing population. An ageing population riddled with illness and disability will not be constructive for society – socially, or in terms of productivity.

Since 2000, the Malaysian Men’s Health Initiative (MMHI) has recognised that men’s health issues require a dedicated research focus and a multi-disciplinary perspective that takes into consideration the complexity of men’s health.

Over the years, the MMHI has published close to 200 pieces of research work on various aspects of men’s health, including epidemiology, clinical, psychobehavioural and basic science studies.

For the first time, these findings have been compiled into a single publication, Managing Men’s Health: Improving Men’s Health Through Research, written in easy-to-understand language for the benefit of the public, medical and allied health professionals, policymakers, researchers and pharmaceutical companies.

One of the most common prostate problems faced by ageing men is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate. It causes difficulty in urinating, dribbling after urination, or frequent urination, especially at night.

This article is the third in a series highlighting some of the findings from the book, which began with erectile dysfunction and testosterone deficiency syndrome. This week’s article will look at prostate diseases among men in Malaysia.

Prostate diseases in Malaysia

Prostate diseases or lower urinary tract symptoms are quite common among ageing men, but they are also often brushed off as “old man’s problems”.

On the contrary, these lower urinary tract problems, including problems related to storage of urine, urination and post-urination, are not benign issues. There is a known correlation between these prostate diseases and many urological and non-urological conditions, including prostate cancer, urinary tract infections and diabetes.

MMHI’s research into the prevalence of prostate diseases in Malaysia is significant, as it offers a better understanding of men’s overall health risks as they age.

One of the most common prostate problems at this age is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate. It causes difficulty in urinating, dribbling after urination, or frequent urination, especially at night. Some men find that they only have a weak stream and a small amount of urine each time they go, and they still feel the urge to urinate even after they have finished.

Another form of prostate problems is overactive bladder, which is linked to urinary incontinence. Overactive bladder occurs when there is a problem with the bladder storage function, thereby causing a sudden urge to urinate. If you cannot suppress the urge, overactive bladder often leads to involuntary urination.

How common are prostate diseases?

The MMHI looked at the prevalence of prostate diseases in the 2006 Subang Men’s Health Study, and the prevalence of overactive bladder in the 2008 Subang Aging Male (SAM) study.

The 2006 Subang study found that roughly a third of the men who participated suffered from some form of lower urinary tract symptoms.

The SAM study found that 12.7% of the men suffered from overactive bladder. The study also revealed that symptoms of such prostate problems are not trivial and, in fact, reduce men’s quality of life significantly. The participants of the study reported that their physical activity and participation in daily life was limited due to physical and emotional discomfort and stress.

Prostate diseases and other conditions

The findings of both studies were especially instrumental in confirming the disturbing trend of a strong correlation between prostate diseases and certain serious diseases, like metabolic syndrome and erectile dysfunction (ED). These findings are extremely meaningful for physicians and men in Malaysia, as it points towards the imperative to screen men with lower urinary tract symptoms for ED, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

More information about the link between prostate diseases and chronic conditions can be found in the book.

Future research

In the book, MMHI lays out its plans for future research into prostate diseases, which promises to provide more insight into ways of managing these significant conditions in ageing men.

It is time to change the way we view prostate diseases. They are not merely tiresome side effects of ageing, but important harbingers of other co-morbidities that could affect quality of life and life expectancy among senior men.

‘Managing Men’s Health: Improving Men’s Health Through Research’
can be obtained by writing to

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