Lifestyle Strategies Ease Some Bladder Control Problems

Dana Sparks wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you’ve been struggling with the embarrassment and discomfort of a bladder control problem, you may be looking for ways to improve it. Fortunately, there are simple lifestyle changes that may improve bladder control or enhance response to medication.

Health care providers often call these strategies lifestyle modifications or behavior therapies. They’re safe, easy, effective and inexpensive. You can try these techniques before trying other types of treatment, such as medications or surgery, or in combination with them.

Focus on fluids and food

How much fluid you drink can influence your bladder habits, and so might certain foods you eat.

Too much fluid

Drinking too much fluid makes you urinate more often. Drinking too much too quickly can overwhelm your bladder, creating a strong sense of urgency.

Even if you need to drink more because you exercise a lot or work outdoors you don’t have to drink all fluids at once. Try drinking smaller amounts throughout the day, such as 16 ounces (473 milliliters) at each meal and 8 ounces (237 milliliters) between meals.

If you get up several times at night to urinate:

  • Drink more of your fluids in the morning and afternoon rather than at night
  • Skip alcohol and beverages with caffeine, such as coffee, tea and cola, which increase urine production
  • Remember that fluids come not only from beverages, but also from foods such as soup

Too little fluid

Drinking too little fluid can lead to a buildup of body waste products in your urine. Highly concentrated urine is dark yellow and has a strong smell. It can irritate your bladder, increasing the urge and frequency with which you need to go.

Bladder irritants

Certain foods and beverages might irritate your bladder, including:

  • Coffee, tea and carbonated drinks, even without caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Certain acidic fruits — oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes — and fruit juices
  • Spicy foods
  • Tomato-based products
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Chocolate

Consider avoiding these possible bladder irritants for about a week to see if your symptoms improve. Then gradually — every one to two days — add one back into your diet, noting any changes in urinary urgency, frequency or incontinence.

You might not have to eliminate your favorite foods and drinks entirely. Simply cutting down on the amount might help, too.

Try bladder training

When you have an overactive bladder, you can get used to urinating frequently or at the slightest urge. Sometimes, you might visit the toilet when you don’t have the urge because you want to avoid an accident. After a while, your bladder begins sending “full” messages to your brain even when it’s not full, and you feel like you have to urinate.

Bladder training, or retraining, involves adjusting your habits. You go to the toilet on a set schedule — even if you have no urge to urinate — gradually increasing the time between urination. This allows your bladder to fill more fully and gives you more control over the urge to urinate.

A bladder-training program usually follows these basic steps:

  • Identify your pattern. For a few days, keep a diary in which you note every time you urinate. Your health care provider can use this diary to help you make a schedule for your bladder training.
  • Extend your urination intervals. Using your bladder diary, determine the amount of time between urinating. Then extend that by 15 minutes. If you usually go every hour, try to extend that to an hour and 15 minutes. Gradually lengthen the time between trips to the toilet until you reach intervals of two to four hours. Be sure to increase your time limit slowly to give yourself the best chance for success.
  • Stick to your schedule. Once you’ve established a schedule, do your best to stick to it. Urinate immediately after you wake up in the morning. Thereafter, if an urge arises, but it’s not time for you to go, try to wait it out. Distract yourself or use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing.If you feel you’re going to have an accident, go to the toilet but then return to your schedule.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t succeed the first few times. Keep practicing, and your ability to maintain control is likely to increase.

Strengthen your pelvic floor

Your pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter help control urination. You can strengthen these muscles by regularly doing pelvic floor exercises, commonly referred to as Kegels.

The pelvic floor muscles open and close the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside your body (urethra). These muscles also support the bladder during everyday activities such as walking, standing, lifting and sneezing.

  • Practice Kegel exercises. To perform, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles — as if you’re trying to stop your stream of urine — for three seconds. Relax for a count of three and repeat several times. Your doctor might recommend that you do a set of these exercises three or four times a day, lying down, sitting and standing.To be sure you’re doing them correctly, ask your doctor or nurse to help you or to refer you to a physical therapist knowledgeable about pelvic floor exercises.
  • Biofeedback. Biofeedback can help train pelvic floor muscles. Sensors placed near the muscles transmit exertion levels to a computer, which displays the levels on the screen. This immediate feedback may help you master Kegel exercises more quickly because you can see whether you’re using the correct muscles. Biofeedback can be done with a professional or with a home device.
  • Vaginal weights. Cone-shaped weights are another option used to help with Kegel exercises. You place a weight in your vagina and contract your pelvic floor muscles to keep it from falling out. Many cones come in sets of varying weights, so you can build up to heavier weights as your pelvic floor muscles strengthen.

Control contributing factors

Certain medications, excess weight, smoking and physical inactivity can contribute to bladder control problems. If you address these factors, bladder-specific techniques — such as avoiding bladder irritants and bladder training — might be more successful.

  • Manage your medications. Drugs that might contribute to bladder control problems include high blood pressure drugs, heart medications, diuretics, muscle relaxants, antihistamines, sedatives and antidepressants. If you develop incontinence or difficulty urinating while taking these drugs, talk to your doctor.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can contribute to bladder control problems, particularly stress incontinence. Excessive body weight puts pressure on your abdomen and bladder, sometimes resulting in leakage. Losing weight might help.
  • Stop smoking. Smokers are more likely to have bladder control problems and to have more-severe symptoms. Heavy smokers also tend to develop a chronic cough, which can place added pressure on the bladder and aggravate urinary incontinence.
  • Be active. Some studies indicate that regular physical activity improves bladder control. Try for at least 30 minutes of low-impact moderate activity — such as walking briskly, biking or swimming — most days of the week.
  • Minimize constipation. Straining during bowel movements can damage the pelvic floor. Unfortunately, some medications used to treat bladder control problems can worsen constipation. Exercising, drinking enough water and eating high-fiber foods, such as lentils, beans, and fresh vegetables and fruit, might help improve constipation.
  • Manage chronic cough. Your cough could be making your bladder problem worse. See your doctor about treatment options.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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Run for Your Life, New Study Recommends

Even a little running on a regular basis can extend your life, Australian researchers say.

They analyzed 14 studies that included more than 232,000 people whose health was tracked for between 5.5 and 35 years. During the study periods, nearly 26,000 participants died.

The collective data showed that any amount of running was associated with a 30% lower risk of death from heart disease, and a 23% lower risk of death from cancer.

Even as little as 50 minutes of running once a week at a pace slower than 6 mph appeared to be protective, according to the authors of the study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

They said that makes running a good option for people who say they are too busy to exercise.

The reasons running is associated with a reduced risk of premature death are unclear, and the study doesn’t establish cause and effect, said lead researcher Zeljko Pediscic. He’s an associate professor of public health at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.

His team also noted that the number of studies analyzed was small and considerable variation in their methods may have influenced the results.

Even so, any amount of running is better than none, the authors suggested.

“Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity,” they concluded in a journal news release.

Source: HealthDay


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Predicting Frailty, Disability and Death

Movement is a part of daily life that most people rarely spend time contemplating, but changes in such movements can portend disease and decline. Watch-like devices known as actimetry sensors, which can be worn on the wrist or ankle, allow researchers to collect information about a subject’s motor activity. In a study led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers analyzed patterns of movement among elderly study participants and found that irregular, spontaneous fluctuations could predict a person’s risk of frailty, disability and death years later. Their results are published in Science Translational Medicine.

“Human movements possess complex fluctuations that are not simply determined by scheduled events. In this study, we found that more random activity fluctuations were associated with increased risk for frailty, disability and mortality in older adults,” said corresponding author Peng Li, PhD, an associate physiologist in the Brigham’s Medical Biodynamics Program, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Importantly, these alterations occurred many years before any incident when people still had no overt symptoms, providing a possible opportunity of early prediction and prevention.”

To conduct their study, Li and colleagues analyzed motor activity data from 1,275 older participants and looked at the participants’ outcomes up to 13 years later. Motor activity data were collected daily using an activity monitor that participants wore on their wrist.

The team found that elderly people with more random fluctuations in daily motor activity had increased risk of death, disability and frailty. Specifically, the team reports that risk of frailty increased by 31 percent, the risk of disability increased by 15 to 25 percent, and the risk of death increased by 26 percent for one standard deviation increase in the randomness from the mean.

The authors note that to establish the current technique as a diagnostic tool, results will need to be replicated in a larger dataset. Participants in the current study were relatively old and it remains to be determined if the same method can predict outcomes in middle-aged and younger adults.

As compared to traditional clinical assessments, actimetry sensors are unobtrusive, cost-efficient, and feasible for long-term health monitoring. In addition, traditional activity measures such as physical activity levels and daily activity rhythms can be affected by the daily schedules and environmental conditions (such as interactions with caregivers). The proposed fractal measures are less affected by these external influences.

“Our proposed motor activity measures may provide a potential tool for remote medicine and facilitate mobile health care, which is clearly important considering the challenge of population aging on health care systems all over the world,” said Li.

Source: Science Daily


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Infographic: Life Is Better with Clean Hands

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Source: CDC