Government: How fit is the US President? Biden’s new health check

Joe Biden’s age is a constant topic in the US presidential election campaign. Is the 81-year-old fit enough for one of the toughest jobs in the world? His doctor says yes. But some in the country have doubts.

US President Joe Biden is struggling with all sorts of aches and pains, but according to his doctors he is fully fit for his job. The White House has now published the 81-year-old’s latest health check. It lists various minor ailments on six pages, including, as in previous years, unflattering things such as general “wear and tear” and a “stiff gait”.

However, Biden’s doctor certifies that the oldest US president of all time is “healthy”, “active” and fully capable of fulfilling the duties of his office. However, there are certainly doubts about this because of Biden’s old age, regular little misfires and a recently published explosive investigation report on another matter.

It is a peculiarity of US politics that presidents must regularly disclose their health status. This is not legally required, but it has become a kind of ritual that no incumbent can avoid. Once a year, US presidents undergo extensive tests and routine examinations, the results of which are then published in some detail. Biden visited the Walter Reed military hospital near the capital Washington on Wednesday.

Hip problems, breathing problems, but “no tremor”

The six-page bulletin issued afterward by his doctor, Kevin O’Connor, said the Democrat was feeling well and there were no new health concerns. However, various known ailments of the president are listed. The 81-year-old is struggling with general wear and tear on the spine. “The President’s gait remains stiff, but has not worsened since last year,” the doctor wrote. Recently, Biden also had to complain about increased discomfort in his left hip when he was active.

For several months now, the most powerful man in the world has been wearing a breathing mask “almost every night” because of sleep apnea. This has proven effective, the doctor wrote. Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder in which those affected experience pauses in breathing during sleep. This means that those affected do not wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. Biden also suffers from reflux disease. According to the doctor, the digestive disease means that Biden has to clear his throat and cough more often.

What else the doctor noted, as in previous reports: The president does not smoke, does not drink alcohol and exercises “at least five days a week.” He is 1.83 meters tall and weighs just under 81 kilos.

The results of the report are largely similar to the results of previous studies. Biden’s age is nevertheless omnipresent when reading the bulletin – for example in comments that there are no signs of possible strokes or Parkinson’s and that the president has “no tremors”.

The thing about age

The president’s health is generally generating increased public interest in the USA. This applies even more to Biden given his old age. He moved into the White House in 2021 as the oldest president ever and wants to run for a second term in November. If he manages to do that, he would be 86 years old at the end. In parts of the population and Biden’s own party, enthusiasm for his re-election campaign is therefore limited.

Biden regularly makes headlines with blunders, slips of the tongue and minor missteps. Competitors from the Republican ranks – above all Biden’s likely challenger in the November election, his predecessor Donald Trump – are making extensive use of such gaffes to question Biden’s mental and physical fitness.

Most recently, the publication of an investigative report into the affair surrounding Biden’s storage of secret documents caused a great stir because the Democrat was portrayed in the report as a doddering old man – a “well-meaning older man with a bad memory” whose ability to remember was “significant.” “restricted”. Biden angrily rejected the account and claimed that his memory was perfectly fine.

Not a cognitive test

However, the White House was once again confronted with several questions as to why the President did not also take a test on his mental fitness during the routine health check in order to demonstrate his cognitive abilities. “The president doesn’t need a cognitive test,” said Biden’s spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.

That is the unanimous assessment of his doctors. “He takes a cognitive test every day as he moves from one topic to the next,” she emphasized. Biden has a very demanding job as president and commander in chief of the armed forces. “And the president has been able to do that job every day for the last three years.”

Trump was also confronted with doubts about his sanity during his time in office – due to his erratic political style, sometimes chaotic conditions and verbal missteps. The Republican decided at that time to have his mental abilities checked and took a test that is used, among other things, for early detection of suspected dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The patient has to recognize drawn animals such as a lion or a rhinoceros or trace a cube. There are also questions designed to test the ability to concentrate and remember. Trump once passed with 30 out of 30 points – and probably hoped that this result would put an end to speculation about his suitability to hold the office. However, this had only limited success. Trump decided not to repeat the test in the following years.