Chained CPI and the Super Committee
Mort Reichek – Octogenarian

Age, Weight and Leaky Pipes

category_bug_journal2.gif It has been more than two years since we last spoke of urinary incontinence. As I explained then:

”[L]ately, when I laugh, sneeze or cough with too much force, I leak. Or, more bluntly, I pee in my pants. Not a lot, a few drops, and it happens not just when I need to visit the bathroom; it can happen even when I have just peed.”

Although I included some useful medical information I'd tracked down, the best part was, as is usually so on this blog, in the comments. Cop Car (“I'm not dressed without a Maxipad”) made me laugh out loud and I immediately adopted her remedy.

Celia too made me laugh with an observation that seems all to true:

”At a family get together (mostly women) the topic came up after a conversation about leaking house plumbing. We thought it seems like women's lives are spent with some body part leaking.”

doctafil told a really funny story which is too long to repeat today but you can read it here (and it's worth the mouse click).

But Jan Adams hit on the reason I am resurrecting this topic today [emphasis added]:

”I find the degree to which I am leaky correlates with general fitness. But leaking happens, especially when I'm exercising.”

doctafil's story also addresses the exercise/leak correlation, but the “fitness” point most stands out for me today.

Over this past year, I have lost a lot of weight – at least 50 pounds, maybe 60 (I don't use a scale) – and a couple of months ago, it hit me that Cop Car's Maxipad remedy had been irrelevant for quite a while. I had stopped leaking.

For my leaky pipes story two years ago, I checked out only incontinence in general. This time, I looked for weight-related leak information. It turns out that some researchers at the University of California at San Francisco released a study on just this subject in 2009.

As reported in The New York Times and elsewhere, weight loss significantly reduced incidences of stress incontinence.

“'Our hypothesis is that increased weight puts increased pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor, and when you raise that pressure, you have less of a margin for increased pressure — through a cough, for example — before you lose your urine,' Dr. Subak said. 'If you lose weight, you have less pressure on the bladder.'”

We already knew that, didn't we? Anyone who's ever been pregnant can extrapolate that conclusion as another physician quoted in the Times story acknowledged:

”Dr. Elaine Waetjen, an associate professor of gynecology at University of California, Davis Health System who studies incontinence, said the results of the new clinical trial support what many women seem to know intuitively.

“'A number of my patients will come in, and if you ask when their incontinence started getting worse, they will say, “Well, I guess it was about the time I started gaining weight,’” she said.”

From the moment I hit puberty, I've fought creeping excess weight. Not much – 10 pounds or so that I lost many times and then, after menopause, it became much harder to keep the gain to a low roar so I just let it go. After a certain age, it sometimes feels like we deserve to eat all the ice cream we want.

But I had no idea when I made a plan to lose a lot of weight that it would solve my leaky pipes problem. What a terrific surprise. It won't work for everyone, but if the shoe fits (or doesn't), you might want to discuss this with your physician.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Raccoon


Ronni--Who knew that my 15 seconds of fame would come over this issue?
I had failed to return with a finding of my own. When I quit drinking caffeinated drinks (my choice being Diet Dr Pepper), the leakage went away. Now...if I would lose 50-60 pounds, I would never need to drink water, again. I'm sure that the conduction will start going in the reverse direction and I will extract water from the air.

After I had my first baby, I got some of that problem which meant my mid 20s. I discussed it with the doctor and was told to do Kegels which took care of the problem then. Anytime it ever recurred, I just knew I'd been forgetting to do them. They are good for the whole pelvic area.

Thank you. Wonderful. I'm dieting and have quit the caffeinated stuff.

I'm in the maxi pad group. I have given up diet sodas in an effort to preserve my teeth. Would you share your eating plan in one of your posts. I know you eat a lot of vegetables but what does an ordinary day look like. I think your weight loss is amazing. How much exercise per day?

I finally consented to using medication for the problem. Every time I had a check-up my doctor would suggest it and I don't like taking unnecessary medicine so I declined. I finally consented to give it a try.

It works and I no longer have to rush to the bathroom. That will be a blessing when I travel because I am trapped in a wheelchair with my luggage and when changing planes I can sit for 3 or 4 hours with no way to get relief. A maxi pad can hold just so much and I'm damned if I'm going to wear a diaper; at least until I have become senile.

I may stop using the medication later, but for now it makes those bathroom 'runs' (no pun intended) easier as there is no rush.

Thank you. This information is helpful. On a couple of occasions I had a cold which involved severe coughing. I wet my pants every time I had a coughing fit. Ugh.

On the weight-loss issue, I will admit I am overweight, and I know it is a problem. It would be easier to hear the advice if so many slender people were not so smug and self-righteous about it. (I am not talking about you, Ronni.)

It worked for me, too! Losing 40 pounds did me a lot of good in a lot of ways. I challenged my doctor (a man much younger than I) to touch his toes without bending his knees and he couldn't do it. But I can now ;-) That ain't bad at age 75.

I had repair surgery 30 years ago because my stress incontinence was driving me nuts. I weighed 126 lbs at the time so it wasn't because of overweight. I assumed it was caused by having given birth to a couple of children. "It's not fair" I said to the surgeon indignantly, "I was SO good about doing my Kegels after both births. I did them religiously and in fact I still do them." But the surgeon replied "You can do Kegels till you're blue in the face but it won't help. People's pelvic floor tissues vary and some people's simply wear out and lose their elasticity faster than others. You're just unlucky. And it has nothing to do with having had babies. I've done this same operation on nuns."
So I guess there are various causes for leakage - and various solutions to the problem, depending on the individual.

I never connected the two, but I lost almost 80 lbs. when I was in my early 20s and have stayed between 95-105 lbs. since (I'm short at 5'2"). I've never had a leakage issue, so maybe there's something to the weight factor. I've never been pregnant and that might help, too. However, after reading Marian McCain's comment above, maybe it's just a matter of good luck--so far!

Rain--Like Marian VEM, I find that Kegels are not effective. I did not have an issue after birthing my children - only after menopause. I did hundreds of Kegels, daily (and was checked to assure that I was doing them correctly!) and it made no difference. In my case, only the caffeine cessation made a difference.

Worked for me too.

It's been an all girl discussion. Don't guys have this problem as well? The cause is usually enlarged prostate, and is more an urgency issue than leakage. My hubby, 82, can't hear water running without heading for the bathroom. So far, I've escaped this particular form of elder hassle, even after 4 kids. I can remember, as a kid, laughing at my Mom when she'd have to cross her legs and squeeze tight when she'd sneeze.

Yoga, which strengthens the core and works with the internal organs through a series of breath contractions called "bandhas" will definitely help. Yoga helps for most age-related issues such as stiffness, geriatric depression and loss of muscle. I would not feel healthy without it.


I have just used up my last Poise pad or I would tell you a very funny story about my incontinence problem.

Sorry, Can't take the chance. I might laugh!

I have a friend who had a structural failure of her bladder and uterus. She has always been quite slim; so for her it wasn't weight. She had surgery two or so years ago to put in a new 'platform' with a net. It's had some degree of success and was essential since everything was collapsing. That kind of thing is genetic.

My mother-in-law, in her late 80s had a lot of bladder infections, was told by her doctor to start doing kegels and it helped her a lot but it is definitely an individual thing and not sure how good doing too many would be either.

I also recommend when one urinates to hold and release so many times. If it's a muscular thing, doing that can also strengthen those muscles. Kegels have some sexual perks too ;) but they are not going to help when someone has a structural problem. And in my case I began them in my late 20s; so it was not an aging thing then-- certainly not related to weight. I also know that taking some medications like say benadryl can be a problem; so don't doubt so can some issues of diet.

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