A recent government report says nearly 50 percent of older Americans struggle with bladder incontinence, or the inability to keep urine from leaking out of the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder). If you fall into that population, and you’re overweight, you might want to consider shedding a few pounds.
How Much Weight do I Need to Lose to Have an Impact?
“It doesn’t have to be a drastic weight loss, but weight loss of around eight percent of a patient’s body weight, which is, on average, for a women, around 15 to 20 pounds, will reduce their weekly leakage – whether it’s overactive bladder or stress incontinence – by about 47 percent,” Catrina Crisp MD MSc FACOG, of Cincinnati Urogynecology Associates, explains.
The less weight you lose, however, the less impact it will have on your incontinence, but regardless, studies show that weight loss does reduce urinary leakage. A 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that women who lost just two percent of their body weight (about three pounds) had about a 28 percent reduction in their incontinence episodes.
How Does Weight Loss Effect Urinary Leakage?
Weight loss helps urinary leakage because losing weight in the abdominal area puts less pressure on the bladder.
“The muscles aren’t having to do so much accessory work, so to speak, and they’re able to extend their energy supporting the pelvic floor and the bladder, rather than all of the additional pressure from excess weight,” Dr. Crisp points out.
Bottom Line: It's All About Patient Preference
While Dr. Crisp does encourage weight loss for her overweight patients struggling with incontinence, she emphasizes that when she creates a treatment plan, it's all about patient preference. "We go through all of their options, including pelvic floor, physical therapy and outpatient surgery and medication, and if the patient chooses to move toward physical therapy, weight loss and behavioral training, we go through their program with them to try to not only improve muscle strength, but also improve weight loss," Dr. Crisp explains.
This also involves having the patient cut out items in their diet that are bad for the bladder, like coffee and soda, and acidic foods, like citrus or fruit juices.