President Bush was found in good health and pronounced “fit for duty” after an annual physical Saturday that also showed that the 58-year-old chief executive is now, as he rather sheepishly conceded, “a little overweight.”
“I obviously have gone through a campaign where I probably ate too many doughnuts, if you get my drift,” said the usually trim Bush, who pledged to drop some weight in the new year. “But other than that, I feel great,” he said upon leaving the National Naval Medical Center outside Washington.
The checkup, which took about three hours, found a few minor issues, according to a summary released later Saturday by the White House.
Bush’s cholesterol level increased slightly, to 170 from 167 at his August 2003 physical, but he saw a large rise in his level of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and a drop in his level of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. The doctors also put Bush in a “low” or “very low” risk category for coronary artery disease, saying he has evidence of mild coronary artery calcification. As a result, the president’s doctors advised that he take aspirin and a cholesterol-lowering statin daily.
Minor health problems
A small lesion was removed from his left shoulder. The doctors said it appeared benign, but ordered a biopsy from which results would be available within a week. They also recommended that other lesions observed on his face be removed with liquid nitrogen over the holidays.
Some previous health problems were noted to continue: a mild high frequency hearing loss that does not affect everyday conversation and an optic condition that has the effect of farsightedness and causes him to occasionally use reading glasses. The hearing and vision exams were conducted at the White House late last month, the statement said.
Otherwise, Bush was pronounced to be in a “superior” fitness category — or the top fifth percentile — for men his age, the statement said.
His resting pulse rate, though at 52 beats per minute higher than last year’s 45, still marks him as a healthy man. His resting blood pressure remained healthy at 110/60.
The checkup, usually scheduled for summertime, was delayed for four months because Bush had a hectic travel schedule during his successful re-election campaign.
'Fit for duty'
Earlier, the White House put out a short summary letter signed by the 10 doctors who participated in the exam. “Within the scope of my specialty, I find him to be fit for duty and have every reasonable expectation that he will remain fit for duty for the duration of his presidency,” the statement said.
Presiding over the medical exam were White House physician Richard Tubb and Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the president of the Cooper Aerobics Center. Also involved were a radiologist, optometrist, sports physician, hearing specialist, skin specialist, cardiologist and others.
At nearly 6 feet tall, Bush’s weight increased to almost 200 pounds from 194 pounds 17 months ago. His body fat percentage increased to 18.25 percent from 14.5 percent. Bush, a devoted exerciser who prides himself on his discipline, seemed to take the gain hard.
“My New Year’s resolution has become apparent after getting on the scales,” Bush said. “I am — I’m a little overweight. Therefore, I fully intend to lose some inches off my waistline and some pounds off my frame.”
Bush an avid cyclist
Last winter, with his knees causing him increasing pain after nearly three decades of running, Bush switched to riding a mountain bike for exercise — but those who have biked with him say the president is as aggressive on the trails as he was in pursuit of ever-faster times as a jogger.
His doctors reported that he exercises six times a week by biking 15-20 miles at 15 miles per hour, doing low-impact “hill work” on a treadmill, using an elliptical trainer and lifting weights.
After the checkup, Bush stayed at the medical facility to visit privately for about two hours with Marines, sailors and one soldier recovering from injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The hospital is treating about 50 military members, most of whom were hurt in Iraq, Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler said. Bush saw about 45 of them, including two in the intensive care unit, and was awarding 14 Purple Hearts, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.
For most of the visits, the president was accompanied by Michael W. Smith, the Christian pop singer who is a Bush family friend.
“It is such an honor to see those who have been injured and now are fighting back and recovering their spirit, their strength,” Bush said.