Always running to the loo?What embarrassing health secret do many women of a certain age share but rarely 'fess up to? Bladder problems. We're talking dribbles, sudden leaks, and mad dashes to the bathroom -- all signs of incontinence.
If that sounds familiar, you're not alone. More than half of women deal with frequent urination. Aging, hormone changes, pregnancy, childbirth, physical stress (e.g., gymnastics) all play roles. So do new factors, such as the obesity-diabetes epidemic (another reason to watch your weight).
That's a lot of daily difficulties. Incontinence dampens your enthusiasm for exercise, sex, going out, even attending meetings. Yet few women, and fewer men (yes, it's a problem for them, too), ask for help. Here are 5 ways to stop the flow:
1. Do Your Kegels.
This exercise strengthens the pelvic floor and sphincter muscles, which helps more than 80% of women with stress incontinence -- the leak-when-you-sneeze type -- stay dryer. You can do Kegel exercises anywhere: at your desk, sitting at the movies, standing in line at the grocery store. And here's another benefit: Doing those Kegels is good for your sex life, too.
2. Skip "urge-to-pee" drinks.
It's a no-brainer that your bladder's going to yell after you chug a giant bottle of water, but you may be overstimulating it in other ways. Caffeine, fizzy drinks, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, tomatoes, and citrus can all trigger an overwhelming urge to pee. Also, sip slowly throughout the day.
3. Take your vitamin D.
There's a strong link between incontinence and low vitamin D levels. RealAge cofounder Michael F. Roizen, M.D. recommends taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 (that's the kind of D your skin produces when exposed to sun) a day; 1,200 after age 60. Your doctor can also order a blood test to check your vitamin D levels -- up to 75% of people are low, especially in winter.
4. Keep a "pee diary."
For three days, write down what you do and when your bladder loses control. Then look for connections. You may find patterns you can change easily, such as the afternoon urge that always hits after your Big Gulp diet cola. You may also find connections your doctor can help with, such as a bladder that always acts up when you walk in the front door.
5. Work with your doctor.
If changes like doing Kegels and not chugging soda don't help, make an appointment with your doc. She can check for other factors that may be making you "go" too often. Incontinence can be triggered by anything from prescription meds (a side effect of some blood pressure drugs, for instance) to infections.
Treatments for incontinence range from bladder retraining techniques and acupuncture to prescription drugs to calm overactive bladders and surgery to tightly shut your urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) or reposition a bladder that shifted during childbirth. There's also a plastic ring called a pessary that can help stabilize a shifty bladder or tighten a leaky urethra.
Up all night heading to the bathroom? Here's why you should talk to your doctor about nighttime incontinence.
Speak up. Soon you'll be walking right past those pads in the drugstore and taking long road trips worry-free.
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