Shawnette Saddler, M.D.
By Diana Hanford
Age is more than a number. It is a leading indicator of health conditions that could determine whether patients are at risk for debilitating or deadly diseases.
“As we age, our body gradually changes,” said Shawnette Saddler, M.D., an internal medicine physician with the Broward Health Physician Group. She stressed the importance of regularly seeing a healthcare provider and following up on recommended health screenings and exams.
“When we turn 40 years old, it’s a good idea to look under the hood and check that engine light, especially if you haven’t maintained regular physical exams,” she said. “During an annual physical exam, a primary care physician will conduct a physical assessment, request a blood exam, and most importantly have a meaningful conversation.”
Annual screenings can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, make adjustments to elevate your health, and in some instances lead to early diagnoses, which can mean better outcomes. And often, Dr. Saddler said, we’ve become so used to some symptoms that we no longer recognize it’s something that your physician should address.
“Communication is key,” said Dr. Saddler, who also practices at Broward Health Coral Springs. “It’s human nature to adapt to issues and push on. Many patients become accustomed to suffering through aches, pains, and loss of hearing or vision, believing they are the realities of aging. However, these conditions can also be an indicator of a more serious problem. By discussing how you actually feel, we, as physicians, can help determine what is normal or not and refer a patient to a specialist for conclusive testing if needed.”
Types of Screenings
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all adults 18 years, and older be screened at least once in their lifetime for hepatitis C, a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Chronic HCV infection does not present obvious symptoms but can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. The good news is that hepatitis C is treatable with medications and can even be cured.
There are annual screenings for women, and Dr. Saddler encourages the prioritization of annual mammograms and PAP smears based on the healthcare provider’s recommendations. Postponing annual screenings, even by a year or two, dramatically increases the risk of a delayed or missed diagnosis. This is especially true for cancer, in which early detection has been found to improve survival rates.
Another important change that affects both men and women is the new recommended age for colon cancer screenings, which was lowered to 45 years old, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent volunteer group of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine.
Dr. Saddler acknowledges that many older patients either do not know their family’s medical history or do not share known hereditary risks with their physician and family, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
Generations of Americans are eating more processed fast foods. As people age, their hormones change, and their metabolism slows down, increasing risk factors. That’s also why early detection and prevention are so important.
“We stress that the road to long-term, optimal health starts with good habits at home but should also be supplemented with advice from a medical professional,” Dr. Saddler said. “Set a good example for your children by incorporating a healthy lifestyle the whole family can build upon. It can be as simple as cooking meals at home, limiting screen time, and participating in outdoor activities.”
Short Guide to Maintaining Your Health and Wellness:
- Know your baseline blood numbers.
- Drink water, four to six 8 oz cups is the daily recommendation.
- Exercise at least 200 minutes each week.
- Sleep seven hours each night.
- Prioritize self-care to decompress.
- If sedentary, stand up every 30 minutes and stretch.
- Monitor and portion what you eat.
- Be aware of symptoms of depression as poor mental health affects our physical well-being.
“There’s no better time than the present to prioritize your wellness,” Dr. Saddler said. “We want to provide patients with the help they need so they can thrive and live healthy, happy lives.”
To learn more about how to improve your health and wellness, visit BrowardHealth.org/Wellness.