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10 Ways to Live Normally With a Leaky Bladder

Retrain your brain, your muscles, and your habits to control an overactive bladder.

By , Caring.com contributing editor
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Nervous about going out because your bladder sometimes leaks? Or constantly worried about getting to a bathroom on time? About one in five adults over age 40 has problems with urinary urgency and frequency, according to the National Association for Continence. But an overactive bladder (OAB), also called urge incontinence or irritable bladder, doesn't have to cramp your lifestyle.

Overactive bladder is often caused by a disruption in nerve signals from the brain to the muscles involved in urination. Symptoms include the need to go often or suddenly. It's the second-leading kind of incontinence, as well as part of the most common kind, "mixed incontinence" -- having both OAB and stress incontinence, a muscle weakness causing leaks when you cough or sneeze.

Here are ten ways to live a normal life despite bladder worries:

1. Be sure you're not drinking too much -- or too little.

Too much liquid, of course, will send you running to the bathroom too often, no matter what the condition of your nerves and muscles. A smart rule of thumb from ob-gyn Jill Rabin, coauthor of Mind Over Bladder, or I Never Met a Bathroom I Didn't Like and chief of ambulatory care and urogynecology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Hyde Park, New York: Divide your body weight in half, and that's roughly the number of ounces of liquid a day that should be your maximum. So if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 60 to 80 ounces of liquid a day. (That's about 10 cups total, including water, tea, juices, milk, soup, and so on.)

Drinking too little, on the other hand, sets you up for constipation, which can lead to urinary tract infections. UTIs irritate the bladder, triggering the need to go. Not drinking enough also creates concentrated urine, which is itself a bladder irritant and smells even worse if there's an accident.

The very best beverage for the bladder: plain water. Try drinking it flavored with a slice of lemon or lime, or drop an herbal tea bag into a sport bottle, glass, or thermos of cool water.