Barack Obama should drink less alcohol and try harder to kick his smoking habit, doctors say
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 9:10 AM on 02nd March 2010
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Barack Obama should not only try harder to kick his smoking habit, his team of doctors warned, but they also recommended ‘moderation of alcohol intake’.
It would seem the pressure of the U.S. presidency – and all those White House receptions – are taking their toll after the 48-year-old’s first medical checkup since winning the race to the White House.
The chief executive, who has endured an exhausting first year in the White House and year-long battles with congressional Republicans, should also eat better to lower his cholesterol, but was otherwise declared in excellent health and fit for duty.
The White House physician, Navy Capt Jeffrey Kuhlman, said Obama should stick with ‘moderation in alcohol intake’ and ‘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 Centre 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. He is an avid basketball player and golfer.
The slightly elevated cholesterol levels, occasional smoking and tendinitis in his left knee were the only negatives noted.
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.
On a previous occasion he said quitting smoking didn’t create ‘huge withdrawal symptoms’, partly because he smoked only seven or eight cigarettes a day at the most.
The then senator first announced his decision to quit in 2007, in order to please his wife Michelle, while on the David Letterman Show.
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.
In the U.S., the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that for healthy men, drinking more than four drinks on any day or 14 per week is considered ‘at-risk’ or ‘heavy’ drinking.
Last year Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
The law allows the Food and Drug Administration to reduce nicotine in tobacco products, ban sweet flavourings and block labels such ‘low tar’ and ‘light.’
Tobacco companies are now also required to cover their cartons with large graphic warnings.
The law didn’t let the FDA ban nicotine or tobacco, but the agency is now able to regulate the contents of tobacco products, make public their ingredients and prohibit marketing campaigns, especially those geared toward children.
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 6ft 1in and weighs 180lb (82kg) in shoes and exercise clothing. His pulse rate is 56, which is very good, as is his blood pressure – 105 over 62.
The doctor recommended that Obama should:
● Have another exam for colon cancer in five years
● Continue smoking cessation efforts, a daily exercise programme, a healthy diet, moderation in alcohol intake, periodic dental care and remain up to date with recommended immunisations
● 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
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.