Bladder Control Problems – Caused by Both Genetics and Lifestyle Habits

Erin Benjamin 

Incontinence, or the inability to hold urine in the bladder, is a condition that could be affected by genetics, but lifestyle habits could be the largest contributor of an overactive bladder, or the need to visit the bathroom quite frequently. These findings are the result of recent studies. In one of these studies, 25,000 fraternal and identical twins between the ages of 20 and 46 were observed by Swedish researchers who found that genetics explained about half of the risk of urinary incontinence. However, in situations where an overactive bladder was the issue, genes seemed to play almost no role at all. Instead, lifestyle choices and environmental upbringing seemed to be the largest factors.

Bladder Control ProblemsThe reason why twins were studied is because identical twins have all the same genes, but fraternal twins only have about half that are exactly the same. Twin studies like this permit researchers to approximate how much bladder control is affected by genetics, how bladder control problems may be brought on by shared environments, or what part non-shared habits like adult lifestyle can play in bringing on these issues. The conclusions of the study revealed that complaints of urinary incontinence were explained 51% of the time by genetics. About 33% of overactive bladder complaints were explained by shared environments while individual lifestyles accounted for the rest.

The term “shared environment” for this study refers to habits that were learned by parents like smoking habits, diet, and exercise. Individual lifestyles include adult choices and aspects like pregnancy. Obesity and smoking are both conditions that have been connected with bladder control problems. Also, women who have given birth, especially vaginally, have an increased risk for long-term bladder control issues than women who have not given birth.

Despite the clear difference in reasons for bladder control problems, the exact lifestyle factors that cause poor bladder control were not clear from this specific study. Another study, however, uncovered that diet could be a large factor, particularly Vitamin C and calcium intake, in causing bladder control issues. Interestingly, people with Vitamin C intake higher than 500 mg per day from both food and dietary supplements tended to report overactive bladder symptoms more than others who consumed 50 mg or less daily. The recommended daily dose of Vitamin C for women is 75 mg each day.

However, this connection between Vitamin C and bladder control problems fails to prove that the vitamin is the reason for the symptoms, said lead researcher Nancy N. Maserejian of New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Massachusetts. As for calcium, the study showed that women taking 1,000 mg of calcium supplements per day were two times more likely to have bladder control problems than those taking less. The reasons are unclear, however, and Maserejian warned against making lifestyle changes to decrease reasonable levels of calcium supplementation. After all, women under age 51 are encouraged to have 1,000 mg of calcium daily while women older than this should have 1,200 mg.