WASHINGTON — President Biden is a “healthy, vigorous, 80-year-old,” his doctor said Thursday following a physical exam conducted just weeks before the oldest president in American history said he’s running for a second term.
Kevin C. O’Connor, the president’s longtime physician, said in a letter released by the White House that Mr. Biden’s health hasn’t changed much since his last physical about 15 months ago.
He said Mr. Biden is “suited to successfully perform the duties of the presidency, including those as chief executive, head of state and commander-in-chief.”
Mr. Biden weighs 178 pounds with a body mass index of 24.1, according to the White House letter. His blood pressure was listed as 128/76 with a pulse of 69. The president had a total cholesterol level of 115, which Dr. O’Connor said was “remarkably low.” His high-density lipoprotein level was 46 and his low-density lipoprotein level was 58.
In his letter, Dr. O’Connor said the president is 72 inches, or six feet, slightly taller than he was at the end of 2021, when Dr. O’Connor reported he stood at 5.11 feet, 65 inches. The doctor offered no explanation for the increase in height.
In the letter, Dr O’Connor said a “small lesion” on Mr Biden’s chest was excised on Thursday and would be sent for a biopsy to determine if it was cancerous. Several small non-melanoma skin cancers on Mr. Biden were removed several years ago.
Biden’s health assessment comes as the president’s party grapples with the idea of nominating someone for a second term who, if he wins, will be 86 years old when he leaves office.
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Public opinion polls show a majority of Democrats would prefer a different bishop to face former President Donald J. Trump or another Republican candidate in the 2024 election. In a recent NBC News poll, 28 percent of respondents said stated that Biden possesses “the mental and physical health necessary to be president”. 54% said no.
White House aides chafe at suggestions that Mr. Biden isn’t up to the job, physically.
“The president always says this, which is, ‘Look at me,'” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said Thursday before the doctor’s memo was released to the public. “And if you look at him, you’ll see that he has a grueling schedule, and he keeps up with that.”
Mr. Biden has become noticeably slower in his movements in recent years, walking stiffly as he makes his way to the podium.
Dr O’Connor said the stiffness is the result of “significant spinal arthritis, mild post-fracture foot arthritis, and mild peripheral sensory neuropathy in the feet,” for which the president is undergoing physical therapy to regain flexibility .
The doctor said new tests performed this year showed Mr Biden had no signs of “any central or cerebellar neurological disorders, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or ascending lateral sclerosis”.
Dr. O’Connor also said that Mr. Biden does not have diabetes, which is the most common cause of neuropathy in the feet.
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Administration officials and others who meet with him privately say he asks focused, pertinent questions and engages in lengthy, sometimes highly detailed discussions about the policy challenges facing the country.
The reassurances from the president’s doctor and top aides are unlikely to significantly ease the worries among some of his supporters. And Republicans are ready to use the president’s age as a political vulnerability, no matter what doctors say about him.
This week, Nikki Haley, the Republican former governor of South Carolina and UN ambassador under Trump, announced a run for the White House and called on all candidates age 75 and older to take a cognitive assessment.
“In the America that I see, the permanent politician is finally retiring,” said Ms. Haley, 51. “We will have term limits for Congress and mandatory mental proficiency tests for politicians over the age of 75.”
That comment was widely interpreted as directed at both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, who is also running for a second term and is 76 years old.
There was no indication in Dr. O’Connor’s letter on Thursday that Mr. Biden had undergone any type of mental ability assessment such as the Montreal (MoCA) or other screening tests, which can be performed within minutes and who are considered sensitive to early changes hinting at dementia.
Dr. Thomas Wisniewski, director of cognitive neurology at NYU-Langone Medical Center, said in an interview that all 80-year-olds should undergo minimal mental screening tests as part of a general evaluation.
Dr Wisniewski said the tests should be done not because a doctor suspects something is wrong with a patient, but because the incidence of dementia in 80-year-old patients is considerable, at around 30%. Taking the test doesn’t imply you have dementia or a problem, he said.
Dr O’Connor said a neurologist was part of the team of doctors who examined Mr Biden as part of his physical.
In July of 2020, Mr. Trump said he took “and passed” a cognitive test, but gave few details about the exam.
Mr. Biden received his last medical in late 2021 and his doctor received a clean bill of health.
At the time, Dr. O’Connor said the president remained “fit for duty” and could fully exercise the duties of the presidency.
He said Thursday that not much had changed.
Mr. Biden continues to have non-valvular atrial fibrillation, for which he receives the drug Eliquis, a blood thinner. He also continues to have gastroesophageal reflux that forces him to clear his throat frequently, combined with some seasonal allergies, Dr. O’Connor said.
The president regularly takes a handful of meds, including blood thinners, a pill for high cholesterol, over-the-counter allergy medications, and a pill to treat reflux.
Dr O’Connor said the most significant health concern Mr Biden has faced since his last physical was a previously revealed bout with Covid last summer.
“Fortunately, having been fully vaccinated and boosted twice upon initial infection, the President has experienced only mild symptoms, consisting mainly of a deep cough and hoarseness,” wrote Dr. O’Connor.
He added: “The president has not exhibited any residual symptoms that could be considered ‘long Covid’.” White House officials have not allowed reporters to question the president’s doctor directly, but Ms. Jean-Pierre said the multi-page summary distributed after her physique is evidence of the president’s transparency on the matter.