We, as a culture, value youth and often take as many precautionary steps as we can in our lifetime to fight back the natural progression of time on our bodies. How we care for ourselves and treat our bodies is often reflected in our lifestyle choices, vices, and hobbies. Wrinkles, bone damage, and disease are all common ailments of an aging generation that usually come to mind, but another common problem that women over the age of 60 face is urinary incontinence. Specifically, Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is described as the loss of urine when the bladder or urinary tract is put under pressure or stress. The pressure can be minimal from common activities like bending over or jogging. SUI can develop for a number of reasons but stems from a weakened or damaged pelvic floor and surrounding tissue and nerves. For some women, developing light bladder leaks can come after a natural situation such as childbirth or menopause. Others may have SUI develop after they have had a surgery that weakened the pelvic floor or nerves involved in the surgery. In other cases, women may start to experience light bladder leaks due to lifestyle choices and hobbies that may have a direct or indirect effect on the muscles that impact urinary health.
It is no secret that smoking has adverse effects on health, being linked to over a dozen types of cancer in the human body. But beyond being bad for general health, smoking has been linked to an increased chance of developing light bladder leaks. There are two reasons that smoking impacts the way that women go to the bathroom, the first being that nicotine and other chemicals that are in cigarettes and tobacco products are known bladder irritants. Smoking can lead to other urinary problems beyond small leaks, as well. Health problems like Overactive Bladder (OAB) or Interstitial Cystitis (IC) are more likely to develop in smokers than nonsmokers. Coughing is also an obvious side effect of smoking, and a chronic cough can develop with years of smoking or vaping. Coughing also puts your pelvic floor muscles under stress. Repeated or chronic coughing fits can seriously wear down the pelvic floor muscles over time, which may lead to developing bladder leaks.
Weight and Bladder Leaks
Another factor that may impact urinary continence, regardless of age, is weight. Unlike smoking, a person’s weight has a lot of contributing factors – gender, genetics, medications, diet, and exercise can all change and shape the Body Mass Index (BMI) in a person. Being overweight or obese puts more pressure on your organs and internal processes, including the bladder and urinary tract. Every action the body takes when it is overweight puts it under more pressure than someone who is not overweight. So the impact of coughing and jumping could be doing more significant damage in an overweight person than those who are a healthier weight. In addition, being overweight is linked to developing diabetes which also has ties to urinary incontinence. The nerves that are associated with the bladder and urinary tract may be impacted by diabetic neuropathy, a condition in which nerves are damaged from high blood glucose and fat levels.
Sports and Athletics
Exercise usually comes to mind when we imagine a healthy lifestyle. Being physically fit is important for both physical and mental health, but it can affect pelvic floor health over time. In one study, 47% of women who regularly exercised reported light bladder leaks. While some of this may be attributed to other factors beyond training such as giving birth, 25-28% of high school and collegiate athletes reported bladder leaks and have never been pregnant. High-impact activities like mountain biking, dancing, or running are more likely to impact pelvic health in women than activities that are of lower impact or involve more upper body work like kayaking. While regular exercise is important, being aware of how it may impact urinary health over time may be beneficial in taking steps to prevent certain issues.
What Can You Do?
Just by not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, the chances of developing bladder leaks are lessened. But sometimes, even living as healthy as you can, urinary problems may develop. So, what can you do if you start to experience these leaks? First, it’s important to know that you’re not alone in your struggles to stay dry. SUI is one of the most common problems that women face with about 1 in 3 women over the age of 60 experiencing bladder leaks. Talking with your doctor or healthcare provider can give you some insight on some solutions and what will work best for you and your lifestyle. There are products, such as pads and liners, made for women to absorb and discreetly cover up leaks, but they can be expensive and contain chemicals and nonbiodegradable materials that could impact skin health and the environment. Surgery to support the bladder internally is an option, however, with the recent pause of pelvic sling productions due to safety and effectiveness concerns, many women are unable to receive the outpatient procedure to help reduce leaks. Kegels can also be performed to restrengthen lost or damaged muscle mass and tone in the pelvic floor, reducing leaks. It may take weeks or months to see and feel the results of these exercises.
We want women to feel confident and strong all day, regardless of a small leak and is why we created a revolutionary device called Revive™. Revive is a device that is meant to comfortably reduce leaks from the inside out by fitting and working inside the female anatomy. The unique one-size device can be worn up to 12 hours a day and is easy to insert and remove. Available over-the-counter at retailers nationwide, Revive is FDA approved, safe, and reusable!