Obesity is often a cause or contributing factor to urinary incontinence. Extra weight means undue pressure on the muscles of the pelvic floor, which can cause urine to leak and incontinence
What’s going on?
Pressure from extra weight causes an urge to urinate even when the bladder is not full. Moreover, obesity increases the risk of chronic illness such as diabetes. Diabetes can lead to nerve damage that makes it difficult to sense when the bladder is full and/or to empty the bladder completely. In both instances leaks and accidents can occur. The good news is studies have shown that symptoms of urinary incontinence can sometimes be improved with weight loss. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to develop an appropriate weight loss plan. For some people ongoing obesity can significantly increase the risk of urinary incontinence.
Healthy weight is often measured by BMI or body mass index, a measure of body fat. Generally, a BMI of 30 or above is considered to be obese. A BMI of 25 to 29 is considered overweight. BMI is calculated using weight and height – BMI = weight (lb.) divided by height (in) squared x 703. Online calculators such as the one offered by Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov let you plug in your numbers and quickly get your BMI.
Start with small steps
Weight loss will not happen overnight but it will happen. Increase your chances of success by consulting with your healthcare provider on nutrition and exercise advice. For many people, making too many big changes all at once is overwhelming. Instead you might try simply cutting back portions or adding an extra serving of fruits and vegetables with every meal. For example, you might have only one piece or toast (instead of two) and a handful of berries with breakfast. At lunch you might have a small, rather than large helping of fries and add a salad with your sandwich. Small changes can add up to big change overtime.
Exercise in a way that works for you. Do chair exercise or take a brisk walk to burn extra calories. As you develop your weight loss plan, share it with someone who will encourage you and hold you accountable for sticking to your goals.
Lose weight to improve symptoms of incontinence
Weight loss can be an effective way to eliminate or reduce urinary incontinence. If you have a BMI of 25 or higher, talk with your healthcare provider about next best steps.