“Encouraging.” “Significantly improves the amount of urinary incontinence.” “Should be considered…as part of non-surgical therapy for incontinence.” “Obesity is an important risk factor for urinary incontinence.”
These kinds of quotes litter the “Results” section and articles about studies of how weight loss affects stress incontinence in women.
“We know that there are numerous medically-related treatments for incontinence,” says McLeod Gynecologist Joycelyn Schindler, MD. “Many times we start with physical therapy and, if necessary, can proceed to a surgical approach. Yet, a woman can see significant improvement in her incontinence by simply losing weight.”
HOW MUCH WEIGHT DO I NEED TO LOSE?
A number of studies confirm the effect of weight loss on incontinence. In one study, women who lost an average of 17 pounds, realized a 47% reduction in episodes of incontinence. Another group of women in this study, who only received educational sessions, saw only a 27% drop in episodes of incontinence. One of the project’s authors commented, “Weight loss should be a first-line recommendation for urinary incontinence.”
An earlier study found that women who lost 5% or more of their weight saw a 50% reduction in the frequency of their incontinence events.
A third study took a more aggressive approach, placing women on a liquid diet. The women experienced a 54% drop in incontinence incidents and maintained that improvement 6 months after the study ended. The studies authors concluded, “Weight loss of 5%-10% (for overweight or obese women) is as [effective] as other nonsurgical treatments and should be considered a first-line therapy for urinary incontinence.”
BENEFITS BEYOND INCONTINENCE
Weight loss results in many health benefits besides limiting incontinence. Losing weight reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint pain and even breast cancer.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
A woman experiencing incontinence should see her Gynecologist for testing to confirm the type and cause of her incontinence.
Weight loss becomes more and more difficult as we age. Neither exercise alone nor dieting alone wins the weight loss battle. Start a regular exercise program 2 or 3 days a week, totaling at least 150 minutes/week. Many organizations, such as: McLeod Health and Fitness Center in Florence; McLeod Center for Fitness & Health in Loris; or McLeod Health & Fitness Center Clarendon in Manning.
Sources include: McLeod Health, Journal of International Urology, New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA Internal Medicine, Harvard Women’s Health Watch, National Institutes of Health, Neurological Urodynamics