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Incontinence – A Common Problem for Older Adults

However, it’s not just a part of getting older—millions of adult Americans suffer from some type of urinary incontinence. According to the Urology Care Foundation, about 33 million adults of all ages have overactive bladder (OAB), which has symptoms of urgency and frequency of urination. Urinary incontinence can cause emotional distress as it interferes with daily activities and impacts lifestyle. Fortunately, in most cases it can be managed or treated easily.

Urinary incontinence is not a disease, but a symptom of something else. While aging does increase the risk of developing incontinence, there are other factors that can occur at any age. For women, pregnancy, delivery, and the number of births increase risk, as well as after menopause. Men have increased risk if they have prostate issues. Other factors, such as urinary tract infections, certain medications, or even damage to the nerves that control the bladder, can contribute as well.

There are several ways to prevent and treat this condition. Talking to your primary care physician or nutritionist about preventing incontinence through diet and exercise is a great step. Some things that they may suggest include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight puts pressure on the muscles of the pelvic floor. What’s more, being overweight may lead to Type 2 diabetes, which damages the nerves that control the bladder.
  • Incorporate pelvic floor exercises. There are special exercises that isolate pelvic muscles to improve tone. Check out the Total Control fitness series that El Camino Hospital offers.
  • Make sure your diet contains enough fiber. Constipation can interfere with urination, and foods filled with fiber help prevent that.

Treatments for male and female incontinence can differ, but El Camino Hospital offers a variety of nonsurgical and also minimally invasive methods. From medications and pelvic health physical therapy, to minor procedures such as a urethral sling, getting you back to you normal and active life is the goal.


This article first appeared in the June 2017 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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