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An Obama Birthday Message and Question

Obama Basketball

As we bid a happy birthday to President Obama, we might want to add to the birthday song refrain, "How healthy are you, Mr. President?"

When then senator-Obama underwent his medical check back in 2008, Dr. David L. Scheiner, Senator Obama’s primary care physician since March 1987, reported that besides a family history that included ovarian cancer for his mother and prostate cancer for his grandfather, Obama’s “own history included intermittent cigarette smoking.” At the time, Obama was using “Nicorette gum with success.”

Except for the history of cancer and his smoking habit, Obama seemed to be in good health at the time of his examination: he was - and still is - lean; he reportedly exercised regularly and consumed a balanced diet. His blood pressure, laboratory studies, and electrocardiogram were all normal. As Dr. Scheiner noted, “Senator Barack Obama is in overall good physical and mental health.”

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But the president’s grueling, non-stop travel schedule would be stressful for any person, even seemingly healthy ones. It is well documented that high levels of chronic stress take their toll on the body, placing individuals at significant risk for many health problems, including heart disease and stroke. So on this Obama birthday, we ask again, how healthy are you Mr. President? Are you taking care of yourself?

According to the American Lung Association, once a smoker quits, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is decreased by 50 percent that of a smoker. After five to fifteen years, the risk of stroke is reduced to that of people who never smoked. At ten years, the risk of lung cancer declines to as little as 50 percent of people who still smoke, and the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas also decline.

Not until a former smoker has been “clean” for 15 years do the risk of coronary heart disease and risk of death approximately match that of people who never smoked. Even if President Obama has quit smoking, he will continue to carry significant risk of serious disease for many years. So on Obama’s birthday, while we extend best wishes, we may also want to add, “Take care of yourself, Mr. President.”

American Lung Association
Obama Health Summary, May 29, 2008