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Biden’s doctor declares him ‘fit’ and able to carry out his duties

President Biden’s doctor on Wednesday released a summary of his health following an annual checkup in which he declared no major new concerns and said the president “continues to be fit for duty.”

The six-page summary was released at a time when Biden’s age and cognitive abilities have been under scrutiny as the nation’s oldest president runs for reelection. The 81-year-old incumbent, who would be 86 at the end of a second term, is likely to face Donald Trump, who is 77.

The exam found Biden, at 6 feet and 178 pounds, in good shape physically. “President Biden is a healthy, active, robust 81-year-old male, who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency, to include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander in Chief,” the report concluded.

Biden’s longtime physician, Kevin C. O’Connor, oversaw the physical and consulted a range of other specialists. Since the president’s previous physical, in February 2023, “this year’s physical identified no new concerns,” O’Connor said. He highlighted several issues that Biden’s medical team has addressed over the past year, including Biden’s stiff gait, sleep apnea and a root canal.

“The overall read is stability,” said Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist and professor of medicine and surgery at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “When I see a patient for a physical exam after six or 12 months, that’s what I’m looking for: What’s changed?”

He added, “This report doesn’t show a lot of change in the objective elements. That’s reassuring. It’s the report of an 81-year-old man. Eighty-one-year-olds have certain things that are chronic and common.” Biden, for example, takes medication for cholesterol, gastric reflux and seasonal allergies.

It was notable, however, that there was no cognitive portion of the report, Reiner said. Current guidelines do not necessarily suggest a routine cognitive exam for an 81-year-old, he said, unless it is recommended by the patient, caregiver, or physician because of a cognitive issue.

“The other reason to test him would be a political reason,” Reiner said. “There very well may be a political reason since it’s been so high on everyone’s radar screen. But apparently they didn’t feel it was warranted. But that’s the glaring absence from the report.”

Biden’s cognition and memory took center stage earlier this month when special counsel Robert K. Hur said a jury probably would see him as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Democrats angrily criticized the report, arguing that Hur is not a physician and is not qualified to make such a judgment.

Republicans have clamored for Biden to undergo a cognitive test, saying it is necessary to have confidence in his ability to lead the country. Those demands have been led by former White House physician Ronny Jackson, who administered such a test — the Montreal Cognitive Assessment — to Trump in 2018.

Trump has since boasted about his performance on the test, which is aimed at detecting dementia or cognitive decline, but has also distorted how the test is administered, and what the results signify. Jackson, who has since become a Texas congressman, has also faced scrutiny for how he served as a White House physician and some of his claims about Trump’s health — including his quip that Trump could “live to be 200 years old” if he only ate healthier.

O’Connor did remark on the president’s stiff gait when he walks, which he has attributed in the past to a foot fracture Biden suffered in 2020. The doctor wrote that he assembled a team to examine and assess the president, and they determined that much of his stiffness is the result of wear and tear on his spine.

“An extremely detailed neurological exam was again reassuring in that there were no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder,” he wrote. That could indicate that his stiff gait is not the result of other issues such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s, O’Connor said.

Biden also has “no tremor, either at rest or with activity,” and he “demonstrates excellent fine motor dexterity,” according to the report.

Under “Social History,” O’Connor wrote, “The President has been happily married for 46 years. He does not use any tobacco products, does not drink alcohol, and he continues to work out at least five days per week.”

Biden has also had some left hip discomfort recently. He will continue with physical therapy and exercise, the physician said, focused on strengthening his lower extremities and stabilizing his core. “We have added a more intensive stretching routine to the President’s exercise prescription, and he has been regularly participating in this program at least four to five times a week,” O’Connor wrote.

The physical also took note of how Biden has started using a CPAP machine to help with sleep apnea, the White House said, making him one of the millions of Americans who use the device to treat apnea, a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing stops and starts frequently while sleeping.

“Given the importance of efficient sleep for anyone, but certainly for a senior executive, we revisited the issue this past spring, and conducted a formal sleep study,” O’Connor wrote. The study indicated that Biden would benefit from using the device to optimize his sleep.

After trying out several different types of masks, he said, several products were selected that Biden has used successfully. “He has been remarkably committed to sticking with therapy and uses PAP successfully almost every night, for most or all of the night,” the physician wrote.

Biden also had a root canal this past year, using local numbing medication and having no complications, which was disclosed at the time of the procedure.

Earlier in the day, Biden was asked about his physical and he told reporters, “I’m all right. Everything is squared away.”

Asked if there was anything concerning that Americans should know about, he joked, “They think I look too young.”

Dan Diamond contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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