WASHINGTON — Poll results, congressional head counts and federal deficits aren't the only numbers President Barack Obama has to worry about. Now, he's trying to walk off a marginally high cholesterol count.
Although Obama took the presidential motorcade to a speech Monday morning, he decided to walk back through Lafayette Park. A day earlier, his doctor recommended that he lower his cholesterol.
"I want to make sure that I'm working off some of that cholesterol," Obama said when asked "how's your health?,' sparking laughter. "That's a year of campaigning right there."
He made the comments after delivering remarks on education at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, across the park from the White House.
Obama, 48, had his first physical exam as commander in chief Sunday morning where he learned that his total cholesterol and so-called bad, or LDL, cholesterol had both spiked into the borderline high range since his last reported exam in 2007.
Obama, who works out religiously and plays basketball and golf frequently, weighed in at 180 pounds and was declared to be in "excellent health" with his doctor saying that he was "fit for duty" and would likely remain so "for the duration of his presidency.
But Obama hasn't kicked his smoking habit, takes anti-inflammatory medication to relieve chronic tendinitis in his left knee and should eat better to cut his cholesterol levels, his team of doctors concluded.
The White House physician, Navy Capt. Jeffrey Kuhlman, said Obama should stick with "smoking cessation efforts," the use of nicotine gum, and come back in August 2011 after he turns 50.
Obama's cholesterol levels have crept up to borderline high and he should alter his diet accordingly, according to a report the White House released after the 90-minute examination at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. While at the facility, he visited 12 military service members receiving treatment and rehabilitation for injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The president is the picture of health, eats modest portions and exercises regularly. The slightly elevated cholesterol levels, tendinitis in his left knee and occasional smoking were the only negatives noted.
Hasn't kicked the habit
Obama said at a June news conference that he still had an occasional cigarette. It was his first public acknowledgment that he hadn't kicked the habit. He chews nicotine gum to avoid regular smoking, and his doctor said that should continue.
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Kuhlman also said the president should modify his diet to bring his LDL, or bad cholesterol, below 130. At the time of his last exam, Obama's total cholesterol was 173, while his LDL was 96 and HDL, or good cholesterol, was 68.
This time, total cholesterol was up to 209, with HDL down slightly at 62. LDL was up to 138. Borderline high cholesterol starts at 200, with LDL considered in the same category at 130.
Kuhlman said Obama's last checkup was in July 2008 when he was seen by the attending physician to Congress when Obama was an Illinois senator. During the 2008 White House race, his campaign released a statement from his longtime Chicago doctor saying Obama was in excellent health when examined in January 2007.
Sunday's report said Obama is 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) and weighs 180 pounds (82 kilograms) in shoes and exercise clothing. His pulse rate is 56, which is very good, as is his blood pressure — 105 over 62. The doctor said Obama's vision was 20/20 in both eyes for both distance and near vision.
The president was checked for and found free of colon cancer with a virtual colonoscopy, a scan that avoids the more invasive visual inspection with a camera device that is passed into the large intestine.
The tendinitis that Obama suffers in his left leg could be the result of his regular basketball playing.
Kuhlman said that there was mild popping and grinding in Obama's left knee and "some weakness" in his left hip, also possibly a result of rigorous and extended periods on the basketball court.
The doctor said Obama should:
- Have another exam for colon cancer in five years.
- Continue smoking cessation efforts, a daily exercise program, a healthy diet, moderation in alcohol intake, periodic dental care, and remain up to date with recommended immunizations.
- Keep up a modified exercise regimen to strengthen his legs to ward off more difficulties with his knee.
- Modify his diet to lower his LDL cholesterol below 130.
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