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Bladder control, drinking enough water

Created date

August 22nd, 2014

Q. I am a 79-year-old woman with bladder control problems. I’ve been taking medication for years, but the side effects are quite bothersome. Is there anything else I can do besides take medicine?

A. Side effects of incontinence medicines such as dry mouth, heartburn, and constipation can be hard to live with. Have your doctor evaluate all the medicines you take because something else could be causing those types of side effects or making them worse. Maybe a simple medication adjustment is necessary. 

Instead of taking medicine, however, some people can control incontinence with other strategies such as regulating the amount of fluids they drink, avoiding bladder irritants like caffeine and alcohol, and starting a bladder training regimen. There are also classes and programs for incontinence that are becoming popular because of how well they work. Check local senior centers, your local health department, or retirement communities in the area for an incontinence or pelvic fitness program.

Q. Do seniors need more water as they age? How do I know if I’m drinking enough?

A. Water is essential for health because it helps you digest your food and flush out toxins; keeps you from being constipated; and helps your brain and all vital organs working at their best level.  Besides water, other good fluid choices are unsweetened decaffeinated tea, low-fat milk, fruit juice, and low-salt soup. Good ways to get the right amounts of fluids are: drink a full glass of water whenever you have to take medication, and drink a glass before any activity or before going outside. Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat also helps because they have high water content.  The amount of fluid you need every day varies according to your health—check with your doctor about the proper amount for you.

Joel D. Posner, M.D., F.A.C.P.

Medical Director, in June 2009.