Do you always look for the nearest bathroom when you're out in public? And do you worry about long road trips or sneezing too hard? Then you probably suffer from a weak bladder, also known as urinary incontinence.
A number of things can impact the bladder, including childbirth and pregnancy. But as we get older, our bladder muscles also can weaken, reducing the amount of fluid our bladders can hold before we have to rush to the bathroom. And for post-menopausal women, lower estrogen levels thin out the tissues that keep the urethra and bladder healthy, which can also contribute to the problem.
A CDC report found that over half of women, and a quarter of men, over the age of 65, reported experiencing urinary leakage. The good news is that there are ways you can make life easier if you do have a weak bladder.
Here are a few handy tips for making sure your bladder doesn't rule your life.
1. Limit fluids -- especially around bedtime.
One of the worst parts of urinary incontinence is not getting a good night's sleep due to frequent trips to the bathroom. It's a good idea to stop drinking fluids after 5 or 6 p.m., just a few hours before bedtime. This will give your bladder a few hours to empty out before you call it a night.
So try to drink throughout the day and have your last serving of water with dinner. And make sure you avoid any "trigger" foods or drinks ... which brings us to our next point.
2. Manage your diet.
Some foods and drinks act as diuretics in the body, helping purge out excess water. While this may sound like a good thing if you're feeling bloated, it can stimulate your bladder, making for frequent trips to the bathroom. Alcohol, teas and coffee are all no-nos. If you must have your tea or coffee, again, make sure it's not close to bedtime.
You should also steer clear of artificial sweeteners. Some medications such as blood pressure pills or muscle relaxants can also have a diuretic effect.
3. Do your Kegels.
Strengthening your pelvic floor is an important part of fighting incontinence. According to recommendations made by the American College of Physicians, this can be very helpful especially for women with stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is when pressure on the bladder causes leakage -- like when you laugh really hard or sneeze.
Kegels are exercises that repeatedly squeeze then relax the pelvic floor muscles. As an added bonus, these exercises can help your posture too.
They can be difficult at first, but once you find the right muscles and perfect your technique, it's something that you can do daily. Here's a great how-to guide from the Mayo Clinic.
4. Maintain a healthy weight.
If you're obese or overweight, losing weight will likely easy your bladder woes. Having excess weight can put an unnecessary strain on your bladder, causing those frequent urges.
5. Get your magnesium.
Studies have shown that getting enough of this mineral can help lessen the urge of having to urinate. A study published by the International Continence Society showed that 40 percent of women with incontinence in a double-blind study showed improvements in urgency symptoms after taking a 350 mg dose of magnesium twice a day for four weeks. A similar Israeli double-blind study also found that for older women with incontinence, magnesium supplementation twice a day for four weeks saw a 55 percent improvement in their symptoms.
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