Here are five steps you can take to lower the chances of developing this life-altering health issue.
- Keep your weight in check. Excess weight and incontinence can go hand in hand, particularly for women. Extra abdominal fat can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and lead to stress incontinence - leaking urine when coughing, laughing, sneezing, etc. In some cases, simply losing weight can improve incontinence.
- Quit smoking. Smoking threatens your health in many ways. It also doubles the likelihood that a woman will develop stress incontinence. Nicotine has also been linked to urge incontinence.
- Exercise. In the Nurses’ Health Study, middle-aged women who were most physically active were least likely to develop incontinence.
- Minimize bladder irritants. Caffeine and alcohol have been linked to urge incontinence, the feeling you need to urinate even when the bladder isn't full. Carbonated drinks, the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet), spicy foods, and citrus fruits and juices cause urge incontinence in some people.
- Don’t strain with bowel movements. This can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. If your stools are frequently hard or take considerable effort to pass, it's time to look into your diet. In a study involving people ages 65 and older, treating constipation improved a variety of urinary symptoms, including frequency, urgency, and burning. Increasing the fiber and vegetables in your diet, and drinking enough water can help prevent constipation.