White House States They Will Release President Biden’s Updated Health Information This Year

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The nation’s oldest president in history has yet to get a checkup — or release an update to the three-page medical summary that was last provided to the public some 17 months ago. The White House has said more up-to-date information will be released “soon” and, when pressed, said he would do so by the end of the year.

“The President is planning to have a checkup later this year, and the results will be released to the public,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said Biden would “absolutely” be getting a comprehensive health report and releasing it. When asked during three briefings over the past six weeks, she has not said when Biden would schedule his appointment.

“I don’t have an update at this moment, but certainly when he has his next medical appointment, we will be transparent about that and provide that information to all of you,” Psaki said on Friday.

None of Biden’s immediate predecessors had released physical results by this point in their presidencies. Biden, 78, vowed as a candidate to be “totally transparent in terms of my health.”

He was then seeking to defeat President Donald Trump, who had a record of being less than forthcoming about his own health and who sought to make Biden’s mental acuity and age an issue in their race.

Biden, responding to that line of attack, urged voters to take into consideration each of their abilities.

“When it comes to Donald Trump versus me, just look at us. Okay? Just look at us,” Biden told CNN in September. “Who seems to be in shape? Who’s able to move around?”

During the campaign, Biden would often say it was legitimate for voters to question and consider his age as a factor. But he tried to prevent those questions from lingering by jogging onto a stage or being among the last to leave his events.

Stuart Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago who analyzes the longevity of presidents, said he thinks the public should want to know “how our No. 1 employee is doing.”

He and a group of doctors last year reviewed Biden and Trump to provide an assessment based on available records. They determined Biden’s estimated life expectancy was nearly 97 years, given his health and family history (his mother died at 92, his father at 86).

“You can’t sugarcoat aging. Once you get up to that age, changes do occur more rapidly than when you’re younger,” Olshansky said. “But with Biden, not only are there not warning signs, the signs that you see show he’s in exceptional health.”

Biden released a three-page summary of his medical history in December 2019, written by his doctor and declaring him “healthy” and “vigorous.” That summary was the most complete glimpse into Biden’s health since the Obama-Biden campaign released 49 pages of records in 2008.

The December 2019 report was the last time Biden had a physical, according to a White House official, so the public report is from his most recent evaluation. It indicated he was treated for an irregular heartbeat, gastroesophageal reflux and seasonal allergies.

It also showed he had a history of atrial fibrillation, which was discovered during a routine check before he had his gallbladder removed in 2003. Biden has never required any medication or electrical treatments, but he does take a blood thinner. He also uses over-the-counter esomeprazole for gastroesophageal reflux and uses Allegra and Dymista to treat his sinus symptoms. It also noted Biden had no permanent damage from the aneurysms he suffered in 1988.

The report also noted he does not use any tobacco products, does not drink any alcohol and works out at least five days per week.

As a candidate, Biden sought to deflect persistent questions about his mental acuity and his fitness for office.

When a reporter questioned him about his medical records, Biden requested a wrestling match.

When an 83-year-old farmer in Iowa said he thought Biden might be too old for the job — noting how he noticed his own body and mind slowing down — Biden said he was prepared for a push-up contest, a footrace, or an IQ test.

Trump and his allies particularly emphasized Biden’s verbal miscues or times when he appeared at a brief loss for words.

“There’s a tendency for some to interpret his stuttering as some cognitive defect,” Olshansky said. “It’s not. There’s no evidence they are related. And usually, there’s a political motive … It’s just nonsense.”

“He’s probably on the trajectory of normal aging, and healthy aging because he exercises,” said Richard M. Dupee, chief of geriatrics at Tufts Medical Center who has reviewed the summary released in 2019 by Biden’s doctor. “With time, our reflexes get a little bit slower and our ability to sort of recall ability is a little bit less. That’s normal aging … Honestly, I don’t see anything that concerns me.”

“Sometimes where he hesitates with his speeches, he’s had that for a long time,” he added. “He was never a great speech person.”

Politicians, and presidents, have gone to great lengths to withhold health information. There is no requirement for a president to divulge their medical details.

Woodrow Wilson kept it a secret when strokes paralyzed his left side, and Franklin D. Roosevelt famously masked the effects of polio. John F. Kennedy’s youthful appearance helped cover his chronic back pain and Addison’s disease.

The presidency can also be particularly taxing on the health of its occupants. Presidents die earlier than their peers, according to a 1992 book, “The Mortal Presidency: Illness and Anguish in the White House,” and it’s often remarked upon how quickly the gray hairs and wrinkles appear over a four- or eight-year tenure.

Trump disdained exercise and had a diet heavy on red meat, fast food and soda. Yet he presented effusive reports from his physicians.

During his 2016 campaign, Harold Bornstein released a letter saying that Trump’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary” and that he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Bornstein later said the letter was dictated to him by Trump.

Trump’s first physical as president was released in January 2018, with a glowing report from Ronny Jackson, who was the White House physician at the time and, after allegations of misconduct derailed a nomination for secretary of Veterans Affairs, is now a Republican congressman from Texas.

“Some people have just great genes,” Jackson said at a news briefing to discuss Trump’s health. “I told the president that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.”

Trump made an unplanned weekend visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2019, which his doctor waved off as an “interim checkup” and the White House would not discuss further.

When Trump was hospitalized last October with the coronavirus, his doctors gave scant detail about when he was diagnosed, the severity of his illness, or the treatment of it.

Obama had his first medical checkup about a year after taking office. He was 48 at the time and deemed in “excellent health” but was still struggling to stop a 30-year smoking habit.

“Some people have just great genes,” Jackson said at a news briefing to discuss Trump’s health. “I told the president that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.”

Trump made an unplanned weekend visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2019, which his doctor waved off as an “interim checkup” and the White House would not discuss further.

When Trump was hospitalized last October with the coronavirus, his doctors gave scant detail about when he was diagnosed, the severity of his illness or the treatment of it.

Obama had his first medical checkup about a year after taking office. He was 48 at the time and deemed in “excellent health” but was still struggling to stop a 30-year smoking habit.

Biden’s report from December 2019 recorded him at nearly 6 feet tall and weighing 178 pounds, with a blood pressure of 128/84 and cholesterol at 126.

Since that time, the only known instance of Biden requiring medical attention came after he had a hairline fracture in his right foot shortly after he won the presidential election. The injury came while he was chasing his dog, Major, grabbing his tail and then tripping on a throw rug.

Biden wore a boot on his foot for a few weeks and visited an orthopedic specialist clinic shortly after his inauguration.

“Both small fractures of his foot are completely healed,” said Kevin O’Connor in February. O’Connor has been Biden’s primary care doctor since 2009.

“This injury has healed as expected,” he added, “and he will return to his usual exercise regimen.”

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