Of the 13 million Americans on the lookout for the nearest
restroom because of urinary incontinence, 85 percent are
women. In fact, one in four women over age 18 experience
episodes of urine leaking involuntarily.
“Childbirth is a big factor,” explains
Ali Luck, M.D., a urogynecologist in
the department of Women’s Health
Services/Obstetrics & Gynecology and
Urology in the Henry Ford Medical
Group. “Childbirth can damage
muscles, nerves and connective tissue
of the pelvic floor – although there
can be other reasons, including a
combination of medications, diet and
In Your 30s …
Have you experienced stress incontinence – leaking urine
when you cough, sneeze, lift something heavy or exercise?
“Kegel exercises can help,” Dr. Luck advises. “Pull up on
your pelvic muscles, drawing in your vagina and anus. To
start, perform this exercise lying down; work up to doing it
in an upright position. Try to hold for 10 seconds 10 to 15
times a day. Stick with it – don’t expect results before six
In Your 40s …
One in five adults over 40 has an overactive bladder. “That
means a frequent or sudden need to urinate day or night,”
says Dr. Luck. “This condition affects men and women, but
women tend to experience more leakage. What can you do?
Start by maintaining a healthy weight, and decrease your
consumption of caffeine, carbonated drinks and artificial
sweeteners. If you’re taking a diuretic blood pressure
medication such as Lasix®, Prinizide® or Hyzaar®, ask your
doctor if you can change the medication or timing. And if
you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.”
In Your 50s …
“Urge incontinence – meaning an urgent need to urinate
and often a leak on the way to the bathroom – is more
common as we age but not a normal part of aging. Urinate
every two hours to beat the urge,” Dr. Luck recommends.
“And when you do have the urge, ‘freeze and squeeze.’
Instead of rushing for the bathroom, stop (being in a seated
position often helps), squeeze your pelvic floor muscles,
then relax until the sensation to urinate goes away.”
Medical treatments for incontinence are also available, so if
lifestyle adjustments aren’t helping, talk with your doctor.
Ali Luck, M.D.
Ages & Stages