Thu, Aug 03, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Bush a little heavier, annual medical reveals

PRESIDENTIAL PAUNCH The US president received a clean bill of health following his latest medical, which revealed a weight gain he attributed to `too many birthday cakes'

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

President George W. Bush continues to enjoy robust health but has put on a little weight, the White House said on Tuesday after the president's annual physical examination.

"He's up to 196 pounds (89kg), I believe," Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said at a news briefing. That is up from 191.6 last year for Bush, who is nearly 6 feet (1.82m) tall.

Snow said Bush's standing heart rate was 46 beats per minute and his cholesterol 174. Both are little changed from a year ago and are normal for a fit man Bush's age. He turned 60 on July 6.

"I'm doing fine; my health is fine," Bush said after being examined at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. And he said he knew why he had put on weight since last summer: "I probably ate too many birthday cakes."

The White House released several pages of details on Bush's four-hour physical.

"The doctors once again have found the president fit for duty," Snow said, "and have every reasonable expectation that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency."

The president takes no routine prescription medication. He quit drinking alcohol years ago (he smokes an occasional cigar), and he exercises regularly. He switched to mountain biking after being forced to stop jogging when he tore a calf muscle in 2003. He also enjoys clearing brush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he will go today for a vacation.

Previous administrations have been far less candid about the health of the president, arguably with profound consequences. Grover Cleveland's operations for jaw cancer in 1893 were kept secret, as were the debilitating effects of Woodrow Wilson's stroke in 1919, after which his wife, Edith, might have been the true power in the Oval Office.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, who contracted polio at age 39, was almost never photographed in a wheelchair. Just before he was elected to a fourth term, in 1944, his personal physician, Vice Admiral Ross T. McIntire, pronounced him "perfectly OK" despite what McIntire described as a recent bout of flu and bronchitis.

Of course, he was not OK. McIntire was an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist. A cardiologist later diagnosed the president's ailments as hypertension and heart disease.

In February 1945, Roosevelt met with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin at the Crimean city of Yalta to talk about what Europe should look like after World War II. Some historians have argued that Roosevelt conceded far too much to Stalin. What is beyond dispute, as shown in the photographs of the sickly, cloak-wrapped president two months before his death, is that Roosevelt was in no shape to negotiate with the Soviet dictator.

John F. Kennedy's projection of youthful vigor was a creation of his image makers. His many ailments included Addison's disease, an affliction of the adrenal gland that almost killed him, and excruciating back pain from osteoporosis.

Bush's weight has fluctuated. It was 194.5 pounds in June 2000, before he became president, 189 in 2001 and 2002. From Aug. 4, 2002, to Dec. 11, 2004, he gained 10.6 pounds. His doctors attributed some of that gain to increased muscle mass from exercise. Bush blamed doughnuts on the campaign trail.

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