By Cristin Middlebrooks
This January 1st Rebecca began running again, the first step in fulfilling her new year’s resolution to drop 30 pounds. She took it slow, switching between walking and running every few minutes. The crisp air invigorated her and her new running shoes cushioned every step. Yet each time she started running she could feel herself leak a little urine. Her good mood vanished. She was only 42. How could this be happening to her now?
On the other side of the city Janine put her two young children down for a nap and returned to her friends sitting around the dining room table. Someone told a story that had Janine doubled over in laughter. Suddenly she felt something not so funny – she could feel herself leaking. She was so embarrassed she had to leave the room to change. Instead of seeking a solution, both women were too embarrassed by their condition so their leaks continued to be a problem.
If you are, like Rebecca and Janine, one of the 200 million men and women worldwide with urinary incontinence, it is time to stop being embarrassed and do something about it. It is a real medical condition and there are treatments available to reduce the chances of leaks or eliminate them altogether. In fact, “80 percent of those affected by urinary incontinence can be cured or improved,” states the National Association for Continence (NAFC). Start this New Year with two resolutions that are easy to keep: Talk (to your doctor) about your incontinence and begin an exercise program to strengthen your pelvic floor.
There is a stigma that surrounds this condition. According to one study, people would rather admit to having depression or cancer than admit to having urinary incontinence. Why is it considered taboo? Many women associate it with “imperfection, vulnerability, and a loss of control, which are things that they find it hard to be open about in relation to themselves and their bodies, “ says Fiona Berkely, a UK film director who created a documentary about adult incontinence.
Women are ashamed so they feel the need to suffer in silence, considering it just a normal sign of aging. While it’s true that more than half of seniors are plagued by incontinence, growing older is just one of many risk factors. Other factors include childbirth, obesity, menopause, and high blood pressure.
Incontinence of any form takes a tremendous toll on people’s lives. In this study authors Amy Sinclair and Ian Ramsay found tremendous impacts on the lives of women. Some examples include a diminished sex life and poorer relationships due to a lack of intimacy, poor sleep quality, and a reluctance to visit new places and have new experiences.
On average, women wait 6.5 years from the first time they experience symptoms until they obtain a diagnosis, according to the NAFC. That is a waste of nearly seven years. That is time spent worrying about leaks and the location of the nearest bathroom, rather than living. As mentioned earlier, this condition is normal and should never be a source of shame. Talk to your doctor about possible treatments and in the meantime, strengthen your pelvic floor.
Younger women tend to suffer from stress incontinence, which is when you leak a bit when you laugh, sneeze, jog, or lift heavy objects. A weakening in the pelvic floor (the muscles and tissues that surround the opening of the bladder) causes this form of incontinence and it is normal. Several simple treatments are available, including those provided by Carin. Not only does Carin provide an app training program to strengthen your pelvic floor, but you can also view your progress via a sensor that you wear in the included underwear. After four weeks of following the program for just 10 minutes a day, 80 percent of women see progress.
The next time you are at the market take a look at the people around you, especially the women. It’s likely most of them also experience some form of incontinence. Remember – this is a normal, and, for most people, a treatable condition. So what are you waiting for? Make this the year to stop being ashamed by those little leaks. Instead, take control. Talk to your doctor, discover why you are leaking, and fix it. Finally, a resolution that’s easy to keep.
By Cristin Middlebrooks
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