Bladder problems are common in older adults but don't have to be inevitable. While you may feel understandably reluctant to see a doctor about urinary incontinence and other bladder issues, there's support available to help you take control of your bladder health and minimize the impact on your lifestyle. Below, we'll explore what you need to know about managing bladder health as an older adult.
If you're overweight and find you regularly leak urine, losing weight could help improve your bladder control. Weight loss may not relieve age-related urinary incontinence entirely, but it could be helpful alongside other treatments. Even better, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of other health problems common in seniors, such as diabetes and heart disease.
A 2005 study observing the effects of weight loss on bladder control showed promising results — the 40 overweight or obese female participants experienced an average 54% reduction in urinary incontinence after losing weight and keeping it off for 6 months. Furthermore, you don't need to start a radical diet to see the benefits. Losing just 5% of your body weight could be enough to improve your bladder health. Your assisted living community's health care team can support you in losing weight through physical activity and a healthy meal plan.
People experiencing bladder issues often avoid drinking enough water to reduce bathroom trips. However, the National Institute on Aging (NIH) states that staying hydrated is essential for bladder health and reducing incontinence, even though it may seem counterintuitive. Dehydration can increase your risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs) and may lead to bladder inflammation.
So, how much water should seniors drink for optimal bladder health? The National Council on Aging (NOA) recommends weighing yourself in pounds and drinking a third of your body weight in ounces. For example, you could aim to drink around 60 ounces of water daily if you weigh 180 pounds.
However, certain medications or health conditions can affect how much water you need to drink per day. If you're unsure, you could seek advice from your physician or a health care professional in your assisted living community.
How much you drink can affect your bladder health, but what you drink may also make a difference. Alcoholic and caffeinated drinks can cause bladder inflammation and increase how often you need to use the bathroom. So, it's usually best to stick to water and decaffeinated soft drinks if you're experiencing bladder problems.
Frequent trips to the bathroom can be annoying, but holding your urine in could be counterproductive. Not going to the toilet when you need to could make your bladder muscles weaker and can occasionally cause UTIs. The NIH recommends peeing at least every 3 to 4 hours to keep your bladder healthy.
Emptying your bladder fully each time you urinate can also reduce the risk of UTIs, so taking your time is important. Urinating in a comfortable position can make it easier to empty your bladder completely. Men often find standing to pee the most comfortable, while many women find sitting on the toilet seat more comfortable than hovering above it.
Your pelvic floor is made up of the muscles and tissues supporting your bladder and other internal organs. Strengthening these muscles can help reduce urine leakage and make it easier to empty your bladder fully. Exercises designed to promote pelvic floor strength, such as Kegel exercises, are ideal, but activities like aqua aerobics and Pilates can also be helpful.
There's a common misconception that pelvic floor exercises are just for women. However, men can also benefit from these exercises if they have a weak bladder or have had their prostate removed. Kegel exercises can help reduce urinary incontinence in men and stop you from dribbling urine after going to the bathroom.
Constipation can make passing stools difficult and uncomfortable, but you may be surprised to learn that it can also impact your bladder health. As the bladder is close to the rectum, a large buildup of stools in the rectum can increase pressure on the bladder, causing a frequent or urgent need to pee. This pressure can also make it harder to empty your bladder completely, increasing your risk of developing a UTI.
Fortunately, there are several simple ways to relieve constipation and keep your bowel movements regular. Eating a balanced, high-fiber diet, staying hydrated and keeping physically active can help treat constipation and reduce pressure on your bladder.
Getting older can cause structural changes in your urinary tract, but that doesn't mean you have to accept the disruption to your vibrant lifestyle. Sometimes, bladder issues can be a sign of another health condition or a side effect of medication, so it's best to consult your doctor to check for any underlying causes. Your health care provider can also recommend lifestyle remedies and treatments to help improve your bladder health.
Book an appointment with your provider if you experience any of the following symptoms: