A hernia is a common medical condition that affects more than 700,000 Americans each year. It can occur when tissue from inside the body bulges through the wall of muscle where it lives. Generally, hernias appear in the abdomen or groin and bulge out through the belly button area, abdomen or along the incision sites from previous surgeries. While not all hernias can be prevented, some can. Preventative steps you can take may vary based on the type of hernia you are at risk for.
Steps to prevent an inguinal hernia
Maintain a healthy body weight and eat a healthy diet.
Carrying extra body weight puts pressure on the abdominal wall, causing it to weaken. As a person stands or moves around, the abdominal walls are constantly under pressure from the excess weight. When you move or exercise, the extra fat can also put stress on other surrounding muscle groups.
Eating a diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains, combined with exercising, can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. By maintaining optimal body weight, you reduce your chances of developing a hernia.
Eating high-fiber foods can help prevent constipation by making your bowel movements more regular. Straining while going to the bathroom increases your likelihood of developing a hernia. When necessary, take a fiber supplement or laxative to help keep you regular.
Use proper lifting techniques.
Lifting heavy objects increases your risk of developing a hernia, so it is important to avoid lifting heavy objects, when possible, and use the correct form when lifting weights. Using correct techniques can minimize your risk of developing a hernia.
When lifting, make sure to lift weights slowly and make sure your body is properly aligned. If you feel any pain, stop immediately. Pain may indicate something is wrong, so stop before you experience a severe injury.
People who smoke are at higher risk of developing a hernia. Smokers are more likely to experience severe coughing spells that can contribute to hernia development. If you are a smoker, you can reduce your risk by quitting smoking.
Increase your core strength.
By increasing your body’s core muscles, you reduce your risk of developing a hernia. The core muscles include the muscles in the pelvic floor, external oblique muscles, minor muscles, gluteus maximus and trapezius.
Core strengthening exercises can strengthen the muscles in the abdomen and groin and help them stay healthy. Planks are a great core strengthening exercise.
Control your diabetes.
In women with diabetes who are insulin-dependent, there is an increased risk of complications after hernia repair surgery – specifically around the surgical scar site or the belly button. It is essential to follow your doctor’s orders to control your diabetes. You can also control your diabetes by eating a healthy diet filled with whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and lowing your trans fat, sugar and salt intake.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor when you experience persistent coughing or sneezing.
Coughing can cause or irritate an existing hernia. It is critical to treat the underlying condition causing the cough to prevent hernias from forming or worsening.
Treat an enlarged prostate.
If you have an enlarged prostate, you may strain during urination, which may increase the pressure in your abdomen. Patients with an enlarged prostate often wake up two or more times each night to urinate, strain to make the urine flow faster or strain as they empty their bladder at the end of urinating.
Steps to prevent an incisional hernia
An incisional hernia occurs when an area of the intestine pushes through the abdomen wall at an incision site. Generally, it develops three to six months after surgery as the abdomen is healing from the incision. You are more likely to develop an incisional hernia if you are not in good health or are older in age.
It is essential to follow your doctor’s instructions after you are discharged from the hospital after surgery. Steps you can take to reduce your risk include:
- Limiting your activity level.
- Prevent constipation by eating healthy or taking laxatives.
- Avoiding sexual activity until the wound is healed.
- Not participating in activities that put pressure on the wound.
- Getting treatment for a persistent cough or allergies that may cause you to sneeze forcefully.
- Not becoming pregnant within six months of surgery.
- Avoiding weight gain.
Why you should seek care at the Hernia Center of NGMC
The Hernia Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) is recognized by Surgical Review Corporation as a Center of Excellence for its commitment to providing the highest quality of care for patients who undergo hernia surgery.
As a designated Center of Excellence for Hernia Surgery, NGMC’s surgical outcomes are higher than the national average, while our complication rates remain much lower. Our experienced surgeons have performed more than 5,200 minimally invasive hernia repairs and more than 1,200 robotic hernia repairs using the da Vinci surgical system.