Urinary incontinence affects women of all ages, but particularly those in their childbearing years and older women. Approximately 20 million women suffer from urinary incontinence at some point in their lives. This condition can cause tremendous disruption in an individual’s life, along with emotional embarrassment from episodes of incontinence.
Overactive bladder is when you feel the frequent urge to urinate and many times can not make it to the bathroom in time, a problem which becomes more common as you age. Stress incontinence occurs when you leak after strain (such as with coughing, laughing, exercise, intercourse or lifting). The treatment for incontinence depends on the type of problem you have and what will best fit your lifestyle. The good news is there are a number of lifestyle changes that can be made to improve or prevent this condition.
Research has found that incontinence is related to obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and occupations that include chronic heavy lifting. Your diet should be carefully examined, since many foods can be irritants that stimulate an overactive bladder. These include spicy foods, corn sweetener, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, acidic juices (cranberry, orange and tomato) and fruits (apples, citrus, cantaloupes and grapes).
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is an important part of the treatment and prevention of urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises are, in simple terms, a physical workout for the pelvic floor and the least invasive way to treat stress incontinence. There’s no need to take time out of your day to perform these; they can effectively be done while at rest, for example while in the car or in the office. The muscles used in these exercises, however, can be hard to isolate, and the exercises may be counterproductive if not done correctly. Therefore, your Care Team may refer you to a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor disorders. Read more about Kegel exercises here.