Bladder health is a topic most people know little about. Unfortunately, many wait until symptoms begin to appear before taking action. We spoke with David Ritsema, MD, a urologist at Banner Health Clinic in Northern Colorado. He offered a few tips to get ahead of bladder issues so that you can win your bladder battle or stop it before it even begins.
1. Need to go? Go!
Of course, it’s perfectly normal to hold it sometimes. But a key part of maintaining a healthy bladder is listening to your urges. Try to urinate every 3-4 hours. Holding urine for too long or too often can weaken muscles and increase your risk of bladder infection.
2. Be relaxed
Whether you’re standing or sitting, the key to healthy urination is to relax. Hovering over the seat can make it hard for important muscles to release and puts undue stress on your body.
3. Avoiding the conversation could be dangerous
For men, speaking with a doctor about bladder health may feel embarrassing. But keep in mind, that there could be more at risk than just your pride. Dr. Ritsema explained that “some urinary issues can be a late sign of an enlarged prostate. These symptoms may include incontinence, weak stream, straining, voiding at night and voiding shortly after just having gone. Putting off that uncomfortable conversation with your doctor or loved one could mean more serious conditions have time to develop and worsen.”
4. Set your clock for Kegels
For women, even if you have minimal symptoms of poor bladder health now, you can make a preemptive strike and strengthen your pelvic floor. Dr. Ritsema emphasized that exercising those muscles can be done in a matter of minutes. In fact, by setting an alarm and doing Kegel exercises three times per day, you can strengthen these muscles significantly to improve your body’s ability to hold urine. Kegels can be very helpful in maintaining bladder control.
5. Wipe front to back
Women can help to lower their risk of infection by wiping front to back. This is especially important following a bowel movement.
6. Understanding stress vs. urge incontinence
If you are struggling with holding your urine, it’s important to understand the main two types of incontinence. Stress incontinence is leakage caused by coughing, sneezing, laughing, or similar actions. It is a result of a weakness in the pelvic floor. Urgency is that “got to go” feeling. For some people, the urge may feel so strong that getting to the bathroom without leakage becomes very difficult, producing urge incontinence. Your treatment may differ depending on what type of incontinence you are experiencing. Speak with a doctor right away to learn more.
7. Stay hydrated
Getting your daily recommended water will keep your systems flowing. The common recommendation is to drink eight glasses per day, but that can vary based on activity, medication and other variables. Replace sugary sodas with water as often as possible.
8. Avoid excessive caffeine, alcohol and other bad habits
Diet and bad habits can have a huge effect on bladder control. Dr. Ritsema listed a few key risk factors commonly associated with bladder health.
- Alcohol consumption
- Excessive caffeine
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Holding urine for extended periods of time
- Hypertension and obesity
9. Practice good hygiene and wear clean clothes
Proper hygiene is among the most important ways to improve your bladder health. Keep a regular bathing schedule and wear clean clothes to help avoid infection. Loose-fitting clothing and cotton fabrics are best to avoid infection. Tight clothing and underwear may increase your risk by trapping moisture, creating an ideal environment for bacteria near your body.
10. Urinate after sex
Urinating after sex can help flush the body of any bacteria that may have entered during sex. This is important for both men and women.
11. Age is just a number!
People will tell you it’s “just part of getting old” or that “every woman struggles with holding it after pregnancy.” Dr. Ritsema explained, “As in the rest of the body, the bladder gets less supple and can lose some control with age. Prostate growth issues are also very common for many men as they reach old age and can lead to bladder damage.” Practicing healthy bladder habits will improve your health and control regardless of age.
Poor bladder health has the power to hold people back from fulfilling active lifestyles. So, staying ahead of bladder problems is important. Talk with your health provider today to fight back against bladder issues so that you can enjoy life to its fullest.
If you have more questions about bladder health, read these similar articles written with help from Banner Health experts like Dr. Ritsema.