Bladder issues affect many men, women and children, but people often feel uncomfortable talking about it. Common bladder issues include blood in the urine, urine leakage (incontinence) or simply getting up too many times at night to urinate, yet, none of these things are “normal.” November is “Bladder Health Awareness Month,” and it is a good time to familiarize yourself with what is normal and abnormal about one’s bladder. The hope is that the more you know, the more comfortable you will feel about talking with your primary care provider about your bladder issues.

Why is it important? Well, for one, bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men, and the sixth most common cancer when the numbers are combined for both men and women. Each year, more than 81,000 Americans are diagnosed with bladder cancer, and blood in the urine is one of the early signs. Usually there is no pain or discomfort with the bleeding, and it may come and go, which is why a lot of people ignore it. If this has happened to you, please do not ignore it and talk to your doctor right away.

It is important to note that blood in the urine does not always mean cancer — it can be from kidney stones, infections or blood thinners, but it should never be overlooked. The biggest thing you can do to lower your risk of bladder cancer is quitting smoking as smoking is responsible for over 40,000 of the 81,000 cases every year.

An overactive bladder is more common. More than 30 million people in the United States struggle with overactive bladder: voiding too frequently, having to urgently run to the bathroom with leakage of urine if they don’t make it to the bathroom quickly enough. Here are some simple lifestyle changes you can do to help alleviate this issue:

Decrease the amount of bladder irritants (like coffee or soda) to fewer than 2 cups daily.

Limit acidic or spicy foods.

Make sure you are not constipated.

Quit smoking.

Lose weight (only 5-10 lbs. is typically necessary to see improvement).

If these simple lifestyle changes do not work, talk to your doctor. There are medications and surgeries that may be able to help.

Diabetes and neurologic conditions (such as Parkinson’s) can also affect the bladder, so it is important you take your prescribed medications for those diseases. And as with most physical ailments, taking good care of your body with a healthy, balanced diet, plenty of sleep and exercise, will help your bladder, too.

To learn more about bladder health, visit the website for the Urology Care Foundation (www.urologyhealth.org). It is an excellent and trustworthy resource with plenty of information for you to review.

Today’s Health Talk was written by Zita Ficko, MD, from Marble Valley Urology at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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