Urinary Changes to Prepare for as You Age

November 10,2022 |
Older man and woman hiking and taking a selfie.

Your urinary tract system is responsible for filtering waste and fluids from your blood. The kidneys act as this filtration system, removing waste products and harmful substances so the healthy, nourished blood can be properly distributed throughout your body. When things go wrong with this system, urologic conditions can occur. While they can happen to everyone, urologic conditions are more prevalent in older adults. In fact, close to ¼ of senior citizens experience some type of urologic issue on a day-to-day basis. Luckily, thanks to advancements in diagnostics and treatment, there are ways to mitigate issues and reduce the disruption to your daily life. To help you better understand how to handle them, consider some common urinary changes to prepare for as you age.


How Does Aging Affect the Body

Unfortunately, the older we get, the less efficient our bodies become. It’s a normal part of aging, but it can be frustrating—especially when you don’t mentally feel like you’re in your later years. However, aging results in the declining function of nearly every physiologic system, including the urinary tract system. Telomeres shorten, cellular regeneration slows, and our muscles stiffen. This can lead to several obvious signs of aging, and others that aren’t so obvious.

How to Stay Healthy as You Age

There are several different factors that influence the aging process. Some of them are within our control, while others are left to genetics and family history. The best way to improve your longevity over the years is to focus on the things that you can control and try to stay active.

Taking care of your physical health is one of the best ways to help improve quality of life as you age. This should include getting plenty of exercise and physical activity, eating a healthy diet, drinking enough water, prioritizing a healthy sleep schedule, reducing your alcohol intake, and taking a proactive approach to health care. You don’t have to make strenuous changes to your lifestyle. Even just getting up and going for a walk can make a difference when applied consistently throughout your life.

Although many people focus on physical health and outward appearance, your mental health should never be ignored. Mental wellness is directly related to quality of life and can affect how we progress through the aging process. If you feel lonely or isolated, try to stay connected, take a new class, or get more involved with your community. High levels of stress should also be mitigated through things like meditation, journaling, or simply taking time each day to do something you enjoy. 


Different Urinary System Changes to Prepare for as You Get Older

While there are things you can do to maintain health and vitality, eating a balanced diet and avoiding irritants will only go so far. The best way to prepare yourself for any potential issues is to get educated and start to understand some signs and symptoms of common urologic problems. Luckily, there are several treatment options available to reduce the degree to which these issues affect your daily life. The first step is recognizing and acknowledging them. Consider some of the ways that your urinary system changes as you get older.

Changes in the Kidney

Your kidneys your body’s natural filtration system. They can process up to a half cup of blood every minute during peak performance. During this time, the structures within the kidney work to remove waste and excess water, which together form urine. The filtered blood is then sent throughout your circulatory system to deliver nutrients to various organs and body parts. As a whole, this process helps your body maintain homeostasis and a healthy balance of salts, minerals, and water.

As you begin to age, the speed of filtration slows. This usually starts between the ages of 30 and 40 and continues to gradually decline each year. At the same time, arteries may begin to narrow, which can lead to a reduction in size of the kidneys. This can reduce overall function and increase the risk of kidney infection, injury, or chronic kidney disease. If you notice any symptoms such as pain, changes in bathroom habits, or uncomfortable urination, it’s important to see your urologist.

Changes in the Bladder

Your bladder is a muscular organ that sits just above the pubic bone. It’s only about the size of a pear when empty, but it can extend to hold up to 500ml of urine in women and 700ml of urine in men. This elasticity allows for optimal bladder control and voluntary voiding. However, over the years, the muscles lining the bladder wall begin to change. The elastic tissues begin to stiffen and, therefore, storage capacity diminishes. Like the other muscles in our body, bladder muscles can also weaken and make things more difficult to control.

These anatomical changes can result in a few different problems as we age. Most commonly, they result in bladder control issues. These can include things like urinary incontinence, urinary retention, and an increase in urinary tract infections. If you notice any changes in bathroom habits or begin to experience loss of bladder control, see your urologist. There are treatments available to help you maintain a high-quality of life and minimize disruptions.

Changes in the Urethra

The urethra is the hollow tube that connects to the bladder and carries urine out of the body. In male anatomy, the urethra passes through the prostate, into your penis, and ends at the meatus located on the head of the penis. In female anatomy, the urethra runs from the bladder to the front of the vagina. In male anatomy, there aren’t many changes in the urethra itself over the years. However, the function of the urethra can be impacted by changes in the prostate.

Female anatomy, on the other hand, does change. The urethra tends to become shorter and the lining thins. Both of these changes can impact the ability of the urinary sphincter to close, which can lead to incontinence. This is one reason women are disproportionality affected by urinary incontinence, especially as they age. Most professionals agree that these changes are caused by a declining level of estrogen that occurs during menopause. There are several treatment options for women that can be discussed with your doctor.

Changes in the Prostate

The prostate is a male-specific anatomical feature that’s responsible for the production of semen. It’s a small, walnut sized gland that sits just below the bladder, in front of the rectum. The prostate also wraps around the urethra. Once you turn 25 or 30, the prostate begins to grow and continues for the rest of your life. This could never become a problem for some men, but it can also lead to a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH or enlarged prostate).  

Enlarged prostate often leads to a variety of urologic symptoms. Some of these include an increased frequency of urination, increased urgency, nocturia, difficulty urinating, hematuria (blood in the urine), or a feeling like you need to strain excessively to urinate. In severe cases, BPH can result in a complete urethral blockage, which results in the inability to urinate.

Luckily, there are several treatment options for high-volume enlarged prostate. However, it’s important to see your urologist for diagnostic testing as prostate cancer may present similar situations. The presence of BPH does not increase your risk of prostate cancer, but in order to undergo the correct treatment, it’s always best to get confirmation from your doctor.

Living with a urologic condition does not mean that you have to stop doing the things you love. For many people, this is a natural part of getting older and is nothing to be embarrassed about. With the use of a few strategic products and an effective treatment plan, you can reduce problems that many conditions cause. To help you along the way, it’s important to schedule regular visits with your urologist. For management of temporary or chronic urologic issues, Byram Healthcare is here. We carry a wide selection of high-quality incontinence products that can help you take back control of your life. To learn more, or to speak with a professional regarding incontinence questions and ongoing management, contact Byram Healthcare today.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.