It is well documented that obesity impacts the body in a number of negative ways. As the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery points out, this includes a correlation between weight and diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, respiratory disorders, cancer, stroke, gastric reflux, arthritis, and a series of other very serious medical conditions. Among these is Stress Urinary Incontinence – one of the most inconvenient and embarrassing disorders a woman can develop.
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) can lead to depression, anxiety, and lowered self-esteem that can have real side effects both physically and mentally. Because obesity is so common, bladder health issues are also becoming more common as well.
Obesity Definition and Diagnosis
While there are some variations in the precise definition of obesity, it is considered a disease. However, the US Centers for Disease Control defines obesity as “Weight that is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height is described as overweight or obese.” To determine whether or not an idividual is overweight or obese, doctors and healthcare professionals use the Body Mass Index (BMI) that takes a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. The National Institutes of Health publishes an easy to use BMI calculator that can help anyone figure out if they are obese or at risk of obestity. The trick for a lot of people is keeping their BMI in the ‘normal weight range’ (it should be noted that below normal is unhealthy too).
- If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.
- If your BMI is 18.5 to <25, it falls within the normal.
- If your BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range.
- If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.
Obesity is frequently subdivided into categories:
- Class 1: BMI of 30 to < 35
- Class 2: BMI of 35 to < 40
- Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher. Class 3 obesity is sometimes categorized as “extreme” or “severe” obesity.
Note: at an individual level, BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness.
How To Prevent Obesity Diseases
Naturally, to avoid SUI and other obesity-related disorders and diseases it is important to reduce your chance of becoming obese. This is such a tough subject. Some people are obese because of choices they make regarding diet and exercise and some people are obese because of their genetic pre-disposition and/or a disease or disorder that impacts their thyroid or other systems instigating permanent weight gain. This is all complicated by the additional layer of diseases that play into obesity.
Generally speaking, obesity is caused by eating too much for an individual’s lifestyle:
If you consume high amounts of energy, particularly fat and sugars, but do not burn off the energy through exercise and physical activity, much of the surplus energy will be stored by the body…
The energy value of food is measured in units called calories. The average physically active man needs about 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight, and the average physically active woman needs about 2,000 calories a day. This amount of calories may sound high, but it can be easy to reach if you eat certain types of food. For example, eating a large takeaway hamburger, fries and a milkshake can total 1,500 calories – and that’s just 1 meal… Another problem is that many people are not physically active, so lots of the calories they consume end up being stored in their bodies as fat.
Obesity does not happen overnight. It develops gradually over time, as a result of poor diet and lifestyle choices, such as:
- eating large amounts of processed or fast food – that’s high in fat and sugar.
- drinking too much alcohol – alcohol contains a lot of calories, and people who drink heavily are often overweight.
- eating out a lot – you may be tempted to also have a starter or dessert in a restaurant, and the food can be higher in fat and sugar.
- eating larger portions than you need – you may be encouraged to eat too much if your friends or relatives are also eating large portions.
- drinking too many sugary drinks – including soft drinks and fruit juice, or comfort eating – if you have low self-esteem or feel depressed, you may eat to make yourself feel better.
Obesity and Light Bladder Leaks
As mentioned before, light bladder leaks in overweight or obese women may develop over time and with extra weight. These accidental leaks develop due to the pelvic floor muscles, tissue, and nerves being damaged or weakened. There can be a number of reasons the pelvic floor is damaged or weakened – childbirth, surgery, aging, etc. Whenever pressure or “stress” is applied to the bladder, abdomen, or urinary tract the muscles that regulate the flow of urine are too weak to hold in the liquid, thus causing a leak. Overweight or obese people inherently have more pressure and stress applied to the pelvic floor with more weight weakening the muscles over time. In addition, overweight or obese people tend to lose muscle mass, flexibility, and strength at a higher rate than normal-weight individuals.
Beyond striving for a healthier lifestyle, there are products and practices that women can implement into their day-to-day life that can help them reduce leaks and regain their quality of life. The most common being incontinence pads and liners designed specifically to absorb and whisk away urine to protect clothing and surfaces. Some women find that these liners and pads, while convenient at the moment, do not guarantee all-day protection and can be uncomfortable and bulky. Exercises that target the pelvic floor muscles to restrengthen them are also an option, but take time and patience for any real results to be seen. For other women, the new bladder support device called Revive™ is the best option for all-day protection. Revive can be worn comfortably for up to 12 hours a day to reduce or completely stop light leaks. Inserted like a tampon, the device is easy to use, remove, clean, store, and reuse for up to 31 uses! Available at retailers nationwide without a prescription, the one-size flexible device is revolutionary for women suffering from SUI.