WASHINGTON — Doctors and nurses will poke and prod President Donald Trump on Friday during his first known medical checkup since taking office, the results providing the most accurate gauge yet of how a year being commander in chief has worn on the presidential frame.
Will they show he’s gained weight since his last medical report, which reported he tipped the scales at 236 pounds? Or will his cholesterol have changed from the normal readings reported in 2016 after a steady diet of red meat, ice cream and Diet Coke?
Those questions will likely be answered by next week, when the White House says the results of the exam will be released. Trump, 71, will have the final say on what readings are made public. And the White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, will present some details of his examination from the briefing room on Tuesday.
If Trump had any patient’s apprehension going into his exam — which he’ll fly to aboard his Marine One helicopter — he wasn’t letting on.
“I think it’s going to go very well. I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t,” he said Thursday when asked by a reporter about his expectations for the upcoming doctor’s appointment.
Check-ups are voluntary
Presidents are not required to undergo medical exams or tests of their physical or mental fitness for the job. But for the past several decades, all presidents have. Usually the results buffer their standing as healthy, capable leaders.
After a week of questions about Trump’s mental fitness spurred by a damaging new book, the White House said the doctor’s exam would not include any psychiatric tests. Previous presidential physicals have also mostly excluded mental acuity readings, at least that are disclosed to the public.
President George W. Bush’s first physical was conducted by a panel that included a gastroenterologist, radiologist, optometrist, neurologist, orthopedist, audiologist, dermatologist, otolaryngologist, pulmonologist, urologist, cardiologist and podiatrist — but no psychiatrist or psychologist, at least one that was publicly disclosed.
A review of the past five presidents’ physical exams show there has been no single format for releasing information about the President’s health. Typical readings to emerge have included the President’s height, weight, body mass index (which indicates whether an individual is normal weight, overweight or obese), resting heart rate and blood pressure.
Past exams have also included details about the commander in chief’s vision, thyroid, cardiac rhythms, gastrointestinal system, skin and neurological indicators like cerebellar function, motor functions and sensory systems.
Almost always, the physician conducting the exam will make a general assessment of the President’s health, and declare him fit to serve in the office. Past presidents have been largely forthcoming with their medical records, including some embarrassing details like when Bill Clinton’s doctor revealed he had hemorrhoids.
‘Healthiest individual ever elected’
During the 2016 campaign, Trump’s longtime personal physician Dr. Harold Bornstein — who declared the then-candidate would be the “healthiest individual ever elected” — released a summary of Trump’s health that included his height (6 feet 3 inches) and weight (236 pounds), cholesterol (HDL 63, LDL 94, triglycerides 61), blood pressure (116/70), blood sugar (99), and normal results from liver, thyroid, heart and colon exams.
He also said Trump took Crestor, a cholesterol lowering statin; a low dose of aspirin to prevent heart attacks; antibiotics to treat skin rosacea; and Propecia for baldness.
Dr. Bornstein’s report on Trump’s health veered toward the hyperbolic, but White House physicians are typically more buttoned-up in their assessments of presidents’ health.
“All clinical data indicates that the President is currently very healthy and that he will remain so for the duration of his Presidency,” Jackson wrote in his description of President Barack Obama’s final physical exam in 2016.
Past presidential physicals mainly paint a portrait of vigor — punctuated by details like workout routines and sports injuries — but Trump isn’t known to exercise beyond short walks. He uses a cart when plays golf.
And his diet isn’t known to have changed from the high-calorie dishes he has favored in the past: well-done steak with ketchup, meatloaf, hamburgers, vanilla ice cream, salads with blue cheese dressing and chocolate cake.
Trump does not smoke, and he does not consume alcohol. He does, however, drink gallons of Diet Coke per week, cans of which he summons with a red button.
What precisely will be disclosed about the President’s health isn’t yet clear. Trump himself will determine what information to make public, a person familiar with the process of presidential exams said.
The person, who has been involved in past presidential physicals, said the White House Medical Unit typically prepares a summary to give the media after the exam is completed. Because the health information is considered private under federal law, the President himself must sign off on its release.
Doctors who have performed presidential physicals in the past said the task of releasing information that is ordinarily bound by strict privacy rules can prove daunting.
“You have to remember if there is something wrong with a president that kicks him out of office, everyone who comes with him leaves. So everyone wants to keep him in, they want to silence the doctor,” Dr. Connie Mariano, who served as White House physician for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, told CNN in 2015.