Weight, lifestyle factors tied to urinary symptoms

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Adults who are obese or have less-than-ideal lifestyle habits may be more likely to have multiple, and more severe, urinary problems, new research suggests.

In a study of more than 5,500 men and women ages 30 to 79, researchers found that three-quarters of women and two-thirds of men reported at least one urinary tract symptoms -- such as frequent trips to the bathroom overnight, difficulty emptying the bladder and urinary incontinence.

Obese adults were more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to have multiple, more severe symptoms. Smoking, lack of exercise and heavy drinking were also linked to more serious urinary problems.

The researchers, led by Dr. John B. McKinlay of the New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Massachusetts, report the findings in the medical journal BJU International.

The results are based on 5,506 Boston residents who were surveyed about 14 different urological symptoms, as well as their overall health. The researchers were able to identify four “clusters” of urinary symptoms among women, and five among men.

For example, just over half of women with urinary problems fell into the first cluster, which had the mildest symptoms; these women largely complained of frequent urination and having to get out of bed at least twice a night to go to the bathroom.

Women in the fourth cluster -- 8 percent of those with urinary symptoms -- suffered from nearly all of the symptoms assessed, including urine leakage and incontinence. Two-thirds of these women were obese, and often had the disorders associated with obesity, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

Smokers were more likely than non-smokers to have any urinary symptoms, and women in the cluster with the most severe symptoms had the highest smoking rate. Physical inactivity and heavy drinking were also most common among women with the most severe urinary problems.

Similar patterns emerged among men, with obesity and sedentary living being more common among those with the most severe urinary symptoms.

The findings highlight the importance of asking such high-risk patients about urinary problems, according to Dr. Raymond C. Rosen, who was involved in the research.

“These results will hopefully aid our understanding of why urological problems occur and how we can manage these conditions more effectively,” he said in a statement.

SOURCE: BJU International, May 2008.