Can Obesity Cause Urinary Incontinence?


Obesity is linked to several serious health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Several studies have shown that being obese or overweight also increases the chances of developing urinary incontinence —especially for women.

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence refers to the unintentional loss of bladder control, which usually leads to urine leakage. There are several different types of urinary incontinence:

  • Stress urinary incontinence: Leaking urine due to extra pressure on the bladder or pelvic floor muscles, such as laughing, sneezing, coughing, lifting heavy objects, or exercising
  • Overactive bladder: Feeling like you need to urinate 8 times or more in a 24-hour period
  • Overflow incontinence: Difficulty emptying your bladder completely, which can cause urine leakage throughout the day
  • Mixed incontinence: Experiencing a mixture of the above types of incontinence

While urinary incontinence can affect men and women, women are two times more likely to develop the condition than men. Urinary incontinence affects nearly 50% of middle-aged and older women worldwide, with varying severity. 

What’s the Link Between Obesity and Urinary Incontinence?

Although age and sex are risk factors for developing urinary incontinence, there’s a high correlation between obesity and urinary issues. Urologist Dr. H Henry Lai found that nearly 60% of the patients who were seeking treatment for urinary incontinence or an overactive bladder were obese. Although diabetes and high blood pressure can also be risk factors for urological issues, both of these conditions can be caused by obesity. Studies have found that for each 5-unit increase in body mass index (BMI), there’s a 60-100% increased risk of developing urinary incontinence. 

There are several reasons why obesity can cause urinary incontinence. First, excess weight can contribute to weakened muscles surrounding the bladder, which can make it harder to control urination. Excess body fat also creates inflammation throughout the body, which can cause muscle weakness and nerve damage over time. There is also more pressure on the abdomen, which can cause urine to leak from the bladder. 

How Can You Reduce Your Risk?

Beyond age, sex, and body weight, there are several other risk factors that can increase the chances of urinary incontinence:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Prostate cancer
  • Urinary tract obstructions
  • Neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, brain tumor, or spinal injuries

If you’re already at risk of developing urinary incontinence, it’s important to be mindful of your BMI (body mass index). If you’re already overweight or obese, studies have shown that even losing a small amount of weight can reduce your risk and provide overall health benefits. A weight loss of around 8% (typically 15 to 20 pounds for the average woman) can reduce weekly urinary leakage by about 47%. 

To lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, be sure to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, lean meats, and other sources of protein. Avoid high-calorie foods that are low in nutrients, such as highly-processed or fried foods, refined carbohydrates, and fatty cuts of meat. Drinking plenty of water will also help you stay full, so you don’t overeat. Limit or avoid sugary, high-calorie drinks, like soda, fruit juice, alcoholic beverages, and sports drinks. 

In addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet, you should also make sure to get regular exercise. Exercise helps increase your metabolic rate, which helps your body burn calories more efficiently throughout the day. Regular exercise also helps improve heart and lung function, which makes it easier to stay active. Although exercise needs are different for everyone, research has shown that eating a healthy diet combined with 60 minutes of activity four times a week can help most patients lose around 1-2 pounds weekly.

Meet Goals with a Medical Weight Loss Plan

Whether you already suffer from urinary incontinence or you’d like to be at a healthier weight, it can be difficult to know where to start. Dr. Jennifer Hubert offers customized medical weight loss plans that take a holistic approach to your health. By combining medical monitoring, nutritional counseling, and behavior modification, she’ll help you identify the best ways for you to lose weight—and keep it off. Schedule a consultation today at 707-575-THIN (8446)