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Managing Bladder Health As You Age


J.M.

Unfortunately, Incontinence affects 25 million people each day and half of them are senior citizens.

Fortunately, you don't have to be one of these millions. Becoming incontinent as you age is not inevitable as many people think. It is possible to prevent and stop incontinence if you understand what causes it and adjust your diet and lifestyle accordingly.

First off, there are a few things that you should know about your bladder…

The bladder is the final stop for urine before it is expelled from the body. This process begins when your kidneys filter waste out of your blood and turn it into urine. The urine then passes down narrow tubes called ureters to the bladder. When the bladder is full, nerves notify the bladder muscles to contract letting you know that it's time to urinate.

To keep your muscles healthy, bladder muscles included, you need to exercise and eat a healthy diet. Weak bladder muscles can lead to problems with incontinence and like all of your muscles, the bladder muscles can become weak without proper exercise and a healthy diet.

First let's talk about some common types of bladder disorders:

Overflow Incontinence:
Overflow Incontinence occurs when the bladder becomes so full that it releases urine without warning you first. It usually happens in men as the result of an enlarged prostate.

Stress Incontinence:
Stress Incontinence occurs when urine leaks out while doing physical activities like jogging, playing sports, or even sneezing. A common cause of stress incontinence is a loss of estrogen but it can also be a result of diabetes, depressed nerve function, or alcoholism.

Urge Incontinence:
Urge Incontinence occurs when the bladder muscles contract too often, causing you to feel an uncontrollable urge to urinate. Urge Incontinence can be caused by nerve damage, chronic constipation or a urinary tract infection.

Mixed Incontinence:
Mixed Incontinence is a general term to describe incontinence that shows several of the symptoms of the previously mentioned types. In cases of mixed incontinence, the cause can usually be determined by keeping a bladder diary and recording fluid intake over a 24-36 hour period.

Environmental Incontinence (Functional Incontinence):
Environmental incontinence is the result of a severe illness or a diminished mental capacity and is often the result of not being able to reach the toilet in time. Environmental incontinence often occurs when a person is hospitalized or lives in a residential care facility. It can also be caused by certain over-the-counter or prescription drugs when they are combined in contradiction to each other. This is another reason why it is always important to read the instructions for all medications you are taking and to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before combining any medications.


Remember, you don't have to live with incontinence, and although you may feel embarrassed about your condition, it is important to seek help and to take the necessary steps to improve your bladder health.


Tips for improving bladder control

• Drink enough liquid every day so that you urine is never darker than a light yellow color.

• Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, citrus juices, and milk because they act as bladder irritants.

• Remove irritants from your diet one at a time in order to determine which one may be the cause of your symptoms.

• Constipation can lead to incontinence problems so drink plenty of fluids and eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables every day.

• Ask your doctor if any of the medications you are taking may be causing your incontinence. If they are, discuss your options with your doctor before you stop taking any medications.

• Do the same for any over-the-counter medications you are taking on a regular basis.

• If you have fever, chills, severe pain or extremely foul smelling urine for a few days, inform your doctor as soon as possible because you may have a urinary tract infection that needs immediate attention.

• Doing regular exercises that you enjoy will help improve bladder function by toning muscles and reducing stress. You may also want to try the Kegel exercises, a group of exercises designed specifically to strengthen bladder muscles.

• Help your doctor to help you by keeping a daily log of your bladder habits for a minimum of 2-3 days to see where the problems occur. Do not delay the urge to urinate and notify your doctor if you urinate more than 8 times per day on a regular basis.

Be Healthy! Exercise 1-2 hours daily, eat lots of nutrient dense foods while avoiding sugars and refined foods, take a high-quality daily multi-vitamin, and make life-style changes that will reduce your stress levels. The healthier you are in general, the healthier your individual parts will be. Remember that all systems of your body are connected and rely on one another. Many of the underlying causes of incontinence such as an enlarged prostate, diabetes, nerve damage, and weak muscles can be effectively managed with healthy life-style choices.

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