Since 1963, February has marked the celebration of American Heart Month, when American Heart Association volunteers share information about heart disease and stroke and raise funds for research and education. There are certain heart-related illnesses and medications known to contribute to incontinence. To best manage incontinence, it’s important to recognize and treat the underlying causes.
Heart disease and incontinence
Heart disease affects the bladder in several ways. It can cause excessive urination or urine buildup, leading to urge incontinence. Peripheral vascular disease, a heart-related condition caused by blocked arteries in the arms and legs, hinders mobility, making it difficult to reach the bathroom in time.
If heart disease progresses to congestive heart failure, the patient experiences increased fluid output, which can lead to incontinence because of rapid and excessive filling of the bladder. High blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease also can lead to stroke.
Other illnesses that can contribute to incontinence include diabetes, prostate problems, Alzheimer’s and nerve damage. In addition, conditions that restrict mobility contribute to functional incontinence; these include arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and eyesight problems.
Treating these underlying health conditions may improve incontinence symptoms. Here are some strategies your cardiologist may recommend:
- Eat a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, fish and lean meats.
- Cut out unhealthy fats, sugars and salt.
- Participate in an exercise program based on your level of mobility.
- Reduce stress and quit unhealthy habits like smoking.
Effect of medications on the bladder
Many types of medications affect the bladder and its ability to function properly. Heart and blood pressure medications, or calcium channel blockers, can affect bladder muscles and cause urinary retention and overflow incontinence.
Diuretics, or water pills, taken to flush excess water from the body, are often used to treat high blood pressure, edema, heart failure and other health problems. Diuretics can contribute to incontinence, especially among older individuals or those with already impaired continence.
Sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, sedatives and hypnotics—or even alcohol—can cause confusion and an inability to know when it’s time to void the bladder. Other medications to watch out for include narcotics, antihistamines, antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, which can contribute to immobility.
Talk to your doctor about any medications you or your loved one are taking to determine whether they are contributing to incontinence and how to best manage your condition. Ask if there are any nondrug therapies you can try, such as lowering blood pressure through a device like RESPeRATE, which can reduce blood pressure through the use of bio feedback or deep-breathing exercises, which has been proven in clinical studies.