On average, the intervention group lost 8 percent of their body weight, or about 17 pounds each. The control group lost 1.6 percent of their body weight, or a little more than 3 pounds each.
After six months, the weekly number of incontinence episodes dropped by 47 percent for those in the intervention group compared to 28 percent in the control group. The intervention group also reported fewer episodes of stress incontinence -- that's incontinence that occurs due to extra pressure from laughing, coughing or sneezing. This group did not see improvement in urge incontinence -- that's the feeling of a sudden need to urinate.
"The reduced pressure from weight loss causes reduced pressure on the bladder," Subak explained.
She said these findings confirm that weight loss can be considered a first-line treatment for women with incontinence.
"The weight we carry around affects our bodies in so many different ways," said Dr. Janet Tomezsko, chief of the section of urogynecology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "And, the more overweight you are, the more you have to lose to make an impact, but you can make an impact. It's not an easy thing to do, but I think we're going to see more and more programs that address weight loss, exercise and pelvic health."
To learn more about incontinence in women, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
SOURCES: Leslee Subak, M.D., associate professor, departments of obstetrics, gynecology, reproductive sciences, urology and epidemiology and biostatistics; Un
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