A Guide to Bladder Health for Older Adults

by Melissa Chichester

Every day, you use your bladder and probably don’t think about all of the important functions it has. Your bladder filters extra fluids and wastes out of your bloodstream. And the rest of your urinary system removes the waste from your body through urine. The average person empties their bladder 6-8 times per day, or up to ten times daily if they drink a lot of fluids. Diuretic medications or drinks can also cause you to urinate frequently.

As you get older, your bladder changes. Normally an elastic organ, it may become less stretchy. When your bladder can’t stretch, it cannot balloon out properly. As a result, it can’t hold as much urine. This can make it more difficult to empty the bladder fully and result in leaking. Luckily, there are things you can do to be proactive and promote bladder health. 

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Signs of a bladder problem 

Not everyone will have the same bladder problems. The following are common bladder issues that may occur for many reasons. If you suspect you have issues with your bladder, it’s important to talk about it with your doctor:

  • Waking up at night to urinate 
  • Cloudy/bloody urine 
  • Pain before, during, or after urinating 
  • Weak urine stream 
  • Urinary incontinence (leaking urine)
  • The sudden urge to urinate 
  • Urine smells strong/different (note that some foods may cause this, like asparagus)
  • Leaking urine while coughing, laughing, or exercising
  • Bedwetting 

Some of these issues are a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs may also cause mild fevers and confusion in older adults. 

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Common bladder problems 

If you have any of the issues above, you may have a bladder problem. Common bladder problems include:

  • Overactive bladder (sudden urges to urinate)
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Bladder pain syndrome 
  • Urinary incontinence 

What causes bladder problems? 

Like other health issues, bladder problems can be the result of many things or a combination of things. Certain behaviors can also impact bladder health. Common causes of bladder problems include:

  • Being overweight/obese puts pressure on your bladder 
  • Low physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine 
  • Pelvic injury (includes childbirth)
  • Constipation
  • Sex (can lead to UTIs)

What to expect from your doctor 

It can be uncomfortable to speak to someone about bladder problems. However, your doctor is there to support you! Here’s what you can expect when talking to your healthcare provider about bladder health:

  • A physical exam. This may include a rectal exam (men) or a pelvic exam (women).
  • Providing a urine sample
  • Bladder ultrasound
  • Internal bladder exam (conducted by a urologist)
  • Testing how much your bladder can hold before leaking 

Questions to ask your doctor 

You may have questions about bladder health. If you do, write them down or print them out in advance so you don’t forget during your appointment. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are there activities I should avoid to protect my bladder?
  • Will certain exercises make incontinence worse?
  • Can I train my bladder?
  • Are there supplements or medications that will help me support my bladder?
  • Should I avoid certain foods or liquids?
  • How can I protect my bed?
  • What can I do about odors?
  • What exercises can I do to strengthen my bladder?
  • What can I expect in the future if I am experiencing bladder problems now?

Don’t forget that your doctor is there to help you and answer these questions, even if you feel embarrassed about asking them. There is no reason to feel ashamed when you seek help for your health. 

Support for living life 

Unfortunately, if you have bladder problems, it may seem like your life is limited or that you can’t go anywhere. You may fear having to urinate and not being able to find a restroom. Luckily, there are a surprising amount of resources available to help people with bladder problems. This includes private toilet access cards that are available digitally for free. You can store your card on your phone and show it to someone when you need to access a restroom that may not be available to the public. 

There are also nonprofit organizations that seek to end the stigma around incontinence and provide toolkits, coaching, and more. Learning to live with bladder issues and knowing what kind of help is out there will help you continue to live life as you want to.

Promoting bladder and urinary health 

In your day-to-day life, you can promote bladder and urinary health by:

  • Drinking enough fluids and staying hydrated
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol
  • Exercising your body and pelvic floor 
  • Taking time to empty your bladder fully
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes (including underwear) and breathable fabrics, like cotton
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Foods that support bladder and urinary health

Eating a nutritious diet can support bladder health. According to the Urology Care Foundation, the following foods support the bladder:

  • Eggs
  • Pears
  • Lean proteins
  • Green beans 
  • Acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash
  • Almonds, cashews, and peanuts
  • Bread

They also state to avoid spicy food, citrus fruits, tomato-based foods, and artificial sweeteners.

Supplements that support urinary health and bladder health

Puritan’s Pride Senior Urinary Support includes two important ingredients—Cranberry Concentrate to support urinary tract health and Vitamin C to support immune function.* Benefits include:

  • Helps support and promote urinary tract health*
  • Cranberry has the ability to support a healthy urinary tract by cleansing the urinary tract and helping to remove unwanted compounds*
  • Allows for a healthy flow of urine*    
  • Nutritionally supports urinary tract function in both men and women*
  • Vitamin C helps maintain a healthy immune system* 

Cranberry is also available as a standalone supplement to assist with urinary health.* In addition to the benefits listed above, cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, a class of polyphenols with antioxidant properties.* 

Puritan’s Pride Bladder Assist can give you the support to maintain healthy bladder function and help ensure everyday comfort.* Our supplement features Urox®, a special bladder and urinary tract blend to help with occasional urinary incontinence associated with normal aging.* 

Urox® comprises a proprietary blend of the herbs Crataeva nurvala, Equisetum arvense, and Lindera aggregata, which have been traditionally used for urinary health and are now backed by a clinical trial on the exact dose and form used in Bladder Assist.* This award-winning herbal blend is believed to work by enhancing the tone of the bladder, which supports overall bladder health, including helping to reduce the occasional need to urinate at night and helping to reduce overactive bladder during the day and nighttime.*

Bladder problems are a normal part of aging as your body changes. Just like any other health concern, it is something you can speak with your doctor about freely.