Aging is a natural part of life, and while it brings wisdom and experience, it also comes with a variety of physical changes. Among these changes are ones that affect our urinary health and habits. For most of us, this can be a sensitive topic and is often overlooked. But understanding what to expect and how to prepare for these changes is key to maintaining your overall health and comfort.
No matter your age, now is the time to start taking steps to prepare for your future health– starting with your urinary system.
Understanding Changes to your Urinary System
The urinary system includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. As we age, natural changes in these organs and surrounding tissues can cause common health problems. These changes can include:
- Bladder Changes. Your bladder muscles may weaken and lose elasticity, causing issues like incontinence or overactive bladder. You may need to urinate more frequently or have trouble controlling your bladder. Incontinence is especially common in older women, as declining estrogen levels during menopause cause the pelvic floor muscles to weaken. The risk of urinary tract infections increases.
- Urethra Changes. The urethra can become fully or partially blocked. In women, this is usually caused by weakened muscles that lead to a prolapse of the bladder or vagina. In men, an enlarged prostate can block the flow of urine through the urethra.
- Prostate Changes. For men, an enlarged prostate can cause urinary hesitancy, which is the slow or weak urine stream, difficulty starting urination, and frequent urinary tract infections.
- Kidney Changes. Kidney function begins to decline around age 35. The amount of kidney tissue diminishes, causing them to shrink in size. Arteries can narrow and blood vessels can harden, causing your kidneys to filter blood more slowly. This increases the risk of kidney infections and chronic kidney disease.
Preparing for Urinary Changes as you Age
Changes are inevitable as we age, but there are steps you can take to minimize disruptive symptoms and protect your overall health.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: A healthy lifestyle can go a long way in helping to reduce the impact of aging on your urinary system. For example, regular exercise can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and lessen the risk of urinary incontinence. In addition, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and staying well-hydrated can help support proper bladder function.
Monitor Your Fluid Intake: Drinking too little water may lead to dehydration and concentrated urine that can irritate your bladder. On the other hand, drinking too much water can place unnecessary stress on your bladder. Consider sipping water throughout the day and avoid consuming large amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages, which can all stimulate the bladder and increase the need to urinate.
Practice Good Bathroom Habits: Developing good toilet habits can help support a healthy urinary system as you age. Avoid delaying bathroom trips – as soon as the urge arises, visit the restroom. Regularly holding in urine can lead to a distended and weakened bladder. You should also avoid straining when using the toilet, as this puts additional pressure on your pelvic floor muscles.
Seek Medical Advice: It’s essential to address any urinary changes with a healthcare professional. Some urinary issues – like frequent infections or painful urination – may be indicative of a more serious medical condition. Early detection and treatment can help prevent larger problems down the road.
Your doctor may be able to recommend appropriate medication or behavioral modifications to help manage your symptoms, such as using intermittent catheters to completely empty your bladder. If you do need to use intermittent catheters, our urological supply program can deliver the top brands in a variety of sizes right to your door. Contact us today to learn more.