Urinary incontinence will grow more frequent as you grow older. However, there are ways to lessen the burden. Read this comprehensive guide to find out.
The older you get, the more likely you’ll pee at the worst possible time. According to the National Institute on Aging, as muscle mass deteriorates over time, a person’s control over their urinary system weakens.
Weakening bladder muscles, nerve degradation, and mobility issues preventing a timely rush to the toilet contribute to urinary incontinence (UI). While it equally affects young and old, doctors advise watching out for UI when pushing 50.
Of course, the disorder’s not going to wait for you to reach that age. If you’ve been feeling the uncontrollable urge to pee far too often or leaking urine just by jumping or laughing, a drastic lifestyle change is in order.
As you might know I’m a bestselling wellness author and research geek who loves to share tools about how to live longer, while maintaining good health and clarity of mind. I share many health-boosting techniques inside my book “Life is Long.” In this article I will sharing changes to help manage urinary incontinence as you age.
After seeing a doctor about your UI, consider taking the following lifestyle changes:
People suffering from UI will find themselves unable to keep their leaks in check, even if they want to. The amount of leakage can vary from a few drops to a moderate stream, but often the former. While not life-threatening in itself, leakage when one least expects it can be mortifying.
At least among women, openly talking about UI is taboo. Research from the Medical University of Vienna in 2011 discovered that most women consider incontinence to be “more embarrassing than depression or cancer.” The hesitation often results in poor performance at work (i.e., athletes refusing to divulge their UI to their trainers) and delays in getting treatment. (1)
In this case, you’ll need something to catch the urine and prevent it from fouling your clothes. Depending on your lifestyle, your options can be one of the following:
Fancy a can of soda or a cup of coffee every day? With UI, you’ll have to decrease their intake; better yet, steer clear of them entirely. Doctors say any food or drink that can irritate the bladder will increase one’s risk of leakage. Some of these beverages include the following:
Before you decide to remove these drinks from your life, emphasize on cutting back first. Some of these diuretic drinks can still be healthy for aging people, namely citrus fruits and juices. Research by New York University’s Langone Medical Center states that the vitamin C they provide inhibits bacterial growth, reducing one’s risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI). (2)
One drink you definitely should have more in your body is plain water. A glass of it doesn’t have anything that can irritate a bladder, such as caffeine, alcohol, and carbon dioxide. The body uses water in many ways, such as removing waste from the bloodstream and bringing it to the urinary system for expulsion.
Common knowledge dictates that you should drink at least eight glasses (or 2.5 liters) of water every day. For Aaron Carroll, a pediatrics professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, this tip is outdated and inaccurate.
In a 2015 article published in The New York Times, Carroll pointed out that you can get most of your water in prepared food. The human body has a nifty feature that alerts you when it needs its water fix known as thirst. In other words, you should drink water when you feel thirsty. There’s currently little basis to support the claim that drinking more water makes you healthier. (3)
Furthermore, you won’t be doing your kidneys any favors by drinking too much water; they’ll expel the excess water along with the collected waste. It becomes more dangerous when your body’s ability to retain and remove water is impaired as it sets you up for overhydration.
However, this isn’t an excuse to substitute water for non-water. You should still have enough water in your body, whether it comes from the glass or the plate. The color of your urine is an excellent indicator of water content; a dark yellow or orange hue means it’s time to replenish.
Doctors recognize four types of UI—stress, urge, overflow, and functional. Most cases point to a physical health issue, typically stemming from a preexisting condition like spinal cord injury or diabetes. They’re easily manageable with today’s treatment options.
But what if anxiety or depression happens to be the trigger for incontinence? Multiple studies have established a link between mental health issues and UI, which works both ways. Just as the thought of accidentally leaking yourself can be stressful, unnecessary stress can also make UI more prevalent. In a way, these two share a chicken-and-egg relationship.
Treating stress-induced UI, which is different from stress incontinence (more on this later), takes more than drugs. If you don’t act upon whatever’s stressing you out, your incontinence will keep returning. While a combination of medications and therapy can manage mental health problems, making changes to your lifestyle can enhance the effect.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, you can start by identifying the sources and sorting them into three categories—ones that can be solved by practical means, ones that’ll change for the better over time, and ones that are beyond your control. Allow yourself to leave the last two and focus your efforts on the first set. (4)
The good news is that all the tips mentioned in this article contribute to destressing. For instance, a healthy diet mitigates the risk of diseases and the stress that comes with them.
Stress incontinence is when leakage occurs when coughing, laughing, and even doing exercises. The force exerted by such activities puts a strain on your bladder, though they don’t necessarily trigger a leak. As mentioned earlier, aging weakens the muscles; hence, your bladder control.
However, just because you leak during exercise doesn’t mean you need to stop running laps and doing aerobics. A 2020 joint study by the Glasgow Caledonian University and University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia established a direct link between UI and a sedentary lifestyle, the first of its kind. Surveying over 400 incontinent women aged 60 and above, researchers learned that just sitting makes their UI worse. (5)
The study also iterated the importance of performing specific exercises to help bladder control. Kegel exercises are the most preferred since they strengthen the bladder muscles and be done in three easy steps:
Doctors recommend doing up to 40 Kegel exercise sessions daily, spread throughout the day. It’s subtle enough to be performed in public, so you don’t have to look for a private place and helpful in keeping your bladder in check when you’re about to cough or laugh.
Core exercises also aid in controlling UI, as the pelvic floor muscles are part of the core muscles. However, not all types of core exercises benefit the pelvic floor. According to Pelvic Floor First, an initiative of the Continence Foundation of Australia, some examples of pelvic floor-friendly routines include these simple movements:
You won’t be able to enjoy many things as often once diagnosed with UI, more so as you get to your golden years. Fortunately, not everything is prohibited from your lifestyle change. Continue to do the things that kept you fit for decades but with a few tweaks. Cut back on unhealthy food and drinks, keep up with your routine regimen, and include incontinence wear in your clothing.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to be more open about your condition, especially to your peers. They can make your UI problem less of a hassle by helping ease your burden.
Inside I share a wide range of longevity boosters. If you want to learn how to live longer, while maintaining good health and clarity of mind, you will love my book “Life is Long.”