Triggers for incontinence can be bizarre, varying from a chronic cough to obesity related incontinence. Surprisingly, high blood pressure can worsen or cause incontinence.
Responsible for half of the world’s stroke deaths, high blood pressure is a worryingly common problem. In fact, one in three adults in the UK have high blood pressure. It can be caused by something as simple of a high amount of salt in your food and a lack of exercise. Obesity is actually a huge cause of high blood pressure. Having an unhealthy lifestyle through long term smoking can even be a cause. As you get older, your risk for high blood pressure increases. However, the following medical conditions can also cause high blood pressure:
- Kidney Disease
- Hormone Issues
- Sleep problems or long-term sleep deprivation
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How Can High Blood Pressure Impact Continence?
Damage to the Kidneys
For your kidneys to filter waste, they have to use a lot of blood vessels. When these blood vessels become damaged, nephrons responsible for filtering your blood don’t receive enough oxygen and nutrients to function well. Severe high blood pressure can even cause arteries around the kidneys to severely weaken. These are then therefore unable to deliver enough blood to the kidney tissue. Damaged kidney arteries are not sufficient in filtering blood. They eventually lose their ability to regulate the fluid, salts and acids in the body. If arteries become blocked and stop functioning properly, it can lead to kidney fail and kidney disease.
Kidney disease can impact the number of times you pass urine, particularly at night time. This is known as Nocturnal Enuresis. This occurs due to complications with the kidney’s ability to absorb water from the urine. Anna Malkina, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, asserts, “the Kidneys become unable to absorb water from the urine to reduce the volume and concentrate it as normally occurs during the night”. Although rarely spoken of, it isn’t uncommon for incontinence to be independently caused by blocked arteries and kidney fail. There aren’t many people who will openly talk to you about their problems with blocked arteries and incontinence. Severe loss of kidney function can cause serious problems such as muscle weakness and muscle twitches, which can also affect the bladder muscles.
Other Symptoms of Kidney Disease:
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the kidney area
- Drastic change in the appearance of urine
Mild Cognitive Impairment
When high blood pressure damages arteries, this can cause blocked blow to the brain. Mild cognitive impairment is more serious than the common lack of understanding and memory that comes with aging. Particularly in people who are already vulnerable, this impairment can cause issues in managing continence. It is estimated that 76% of older people with cognitive impairments suffer from urinary incontinence. Severe cognitive impairment can impact the brain’s ability to send a signal telling you to visit the toilet. Communication between the brain and bladder can also be affected, meaning the bladder muscles may relax at inappropriate times. In some cases, people can even forget to visit the toilet or begin mixing up their surroundings. This is the reason why the prevalence of Dementia and Incontinence is so strong.
Effects of Medication
Medications taken for high blood pressure can negatively affect the bladder muscles and cause incontinence. Elaine Mclinnis, health educator asserts, “diuretic medications for high blood pressure work by increases the rate of urination”. This alone can cause a drastically increased rate of urination.
Related side effects of this medication include the following:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Feeling nervous
- Nausea or vomiting
High blood pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels in the limbs, which can result in lack of coordination and movement. High blood pressure is a huge independent risk for heart disease. This can cause excessive urine build-up and decreased mobility that makes it difficult to reach the bathroom in time. This is also known as functional incontinence. Adults with high blood pressure are much more likely to develop a physical disability. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh studied 2,733 adults for over 18 years. They discovered that people with high blood pressure were more likely to experience a slowing of their walking speed.
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Preventing High Blood Pressure
As high blood pressure can cause incontinence, it is vital to prevent high blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle.
The following tips can help prevent high blood pressure:
- Maintain a healthy weight. It is common for blood pressure to rise as weight increases. If you’re overweight, try and lose a few pounds to keep your weight at a healthy level. Even walking regularly can help keep your blood pressure healthy. You can read about the link between a healthy weight and incontinence
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Our diet and exercise tips can help you if you require an incontinence-friendly diet.
- Limit your sodium consumption. Too much sodium consumption can increase blood pressure significantly. You can reduce sodium consumption by reading food labels, eating less salt and eating less processed food.
- Reduce your cigarette consumption. Surprisingly, cigarettes increase your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish smoking. This can also increase your risk of heart disease and related conditions. If you cannot quit completely, try and gradually reduce the number you consume in a day.
- Take time to relax. Studies have shown chronic stress to increase your blood pressure levels. Try and avoid triggers of stress and take one day a week to do activities that calm you down.
Are you struggling to manage high blood pressure and incontinence? Read our living with incontinence section for useful tips and guidance.