As with almost all aspects of your health, making small, healthy lifestyle changes today will have big impacts as you age, and your bladder health is no exception. As we become older adults, a need to use the restroom frequently, or fearing that we can't control our bladder, can impact our ability to fully participate in our daily activities.

What are some bladder problems associated with aging?

Bladder health can be impacted at any age, but the most common bladder problems associated with older age include:

  • weakened pelvic floor muscles
  • frequent need to urinate
  • reduced or lack of bladder control

All these conditions are a natural part of the aging process. The muscles that support the bladder, like the rest of the muscles in our body, get weaker over time. Hormonal changes can also lead to weakened pelvic floor muscles. Men with an enlarged prostate may feel they need to frequently urinate or can't empty their bladders. Some medications can also interfere with normal bladder function. Bladder cancer is also a concern as we age—the average age of bladder cancer diagnosis is 73, according to the American Cancer Society.

Some of these conditions may be unavoidable, but you can lessen the effects by practicing good bladder health before you experience a problem.

How do you keep your bladder healthy as you age?

Healthy lifestyle habits are the key to keeping your bladder, and the rest of your body, healthy as you age. These habits include:

  • Drinking plenty of water during the day, spacing your fluid intake throughout the day. Aim to stop drinking a few hours before bed so you are able to sleep through the night, as good sleep is important to overall health as well.
  • Getting physically active and exercising. Specifically, Kegel exercises can be done by both men and women to help strengthen the pelvic floor and support the bladder.
  • Eating a balanced diet that is rich in bladder healthy foods, such as cruciferous vegetables.
  • Avoiding smoking, which can lead to bladder irritation and is one of the most common causes of bladder cancer.
  • Managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension and visiting your healthcare provider regularly for check-ups. These annual visits are the key to establishing your body's baseline health and early detection of potential problems, such as enlarged prostate or bladder cancer.

For bladder health especially, practicing good bathroom habits can be beneficial. Avoid holding in your urine for too long. Waiting more than four hours between urinating or constantly ignoring the urge to urinate can result in urinary tract infections or bladder damage. Avoid going to the bathroom "just in case" or more often than every two hours, which can train your bladder to signal a need to urinate when it's not full. Most people really only need to urinate six to eight times during a 24-hour period, although certain conditions, including pregnancy and an enlarged prostate, can contribute to needing to use the restroom more than that. If you do need to urinate very frequently, please see your doctor to discuss whether this can be improved with changed habits, exercises, or if this may signal a more concerning condition.

Sometimes additional bladder care may be needed. The team of experts at the Minimally Invasive Urology Institute at The Miriam Hospital is dedicated to the treatment of all bladder conditions, utilizing the latest treatment options that may include physical therapy, medications, bladder injections, nerve stimulation, minimally invasive surgical procedures, as well as clinical trials.

Taking care of your bladder today can help you lead an active life as you age. Visit the Lifespan Living health and wellness blog for more tips on healthy living at any age.

Elias Hyams, MD

Elias S. Hyams, MD

Dr. Elias Hyams is a board-certified urologist at the Minimally Invasive Urology Institute of The Miriam Hospital.