In Depth

How healthy is Donald Trump?

White House shrugs off unscheduled hospital visit as ‘routine’ check-up

The US media has been busy analysing the health of President Donald Trump since he had a non-scheduled hospital visit nine days ago.

Trump’s personal doctor has insisted the visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington was a “routine, planned” check-up, while White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the hospital visit was down to a “free weekend” in the president’s diary.

Why was the visit unusual?

Unlike standard medicals, it was not listed in the president’s public schedule. 

Trump’s schedule is usually published ahead of time, but the visit to the medical centre did not appear in any itinerary, whereas his last two visits were announced in advance and noted in his public schedule, says the BBC.

The White House attributed the omission to “scheduling uncertainties”, but given that the White House typically gives plenty of notice of medical exams, the visit took many by surprise. 

Trump told a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that he “went for a physical on Saturday” and tweeted that he had begun “phase one” of his annual physical.

But there is no such thing as a phased physical, says CNN.

“Trump’s mysterious hospital visit raises many questions,” says The Washington Post. “His explanation for it didn’t answer any of them.”

Trump is “73 years old, has heart disease and is clinically obese”, says CNN. “For any man of that age and medical history, an unexpected visit to the hospital is concerning.”

Dr Sean Conley, Trump’s personal doctor, said in a memo after the visit: “Despite some of the speculation, the President has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues. Specifically, he did not undergo any specialised cardiac or neurologic evaluations.”

Is Trump healthy?

Trump was declared “in very good health” by Conley in February, despite results showing he was clinically obese, weighing 110kg and with a BMI of 30.4

As Republican presidential candidate in 2015, Trump’s then doctor Harold Bornstein declared Trump in “astonishingly” good health, and said he would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”.

Trump’s physical strength and stamina were described as “extraordinary”, his laboratory test results were “astonishingly excellent”, and his weight dropping.

But last year, Dr Bornstein confirmed what many had suspected: Trump “dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter”, says CNN.

Trump’s former White House physician Dr Ronny Jackson told reporters in 2018 that the president got a perfect score on a quick screening for mild cognitive impairment and his blood pressure was normal.

But Jackson found that Trump’s weight, 108kg, and his cholesterol level, 223, were high. He also had a heart scan that gave results consistent with “moderate plaque deposits”, meaning “a relatively high risk of heart attack or other heart disease over the next three to five years”, according the US medical research centre, Mayo Clinic.

Jackson said: “I told the President that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.”

Dr Conley’s assessment in February this year found that Trump has a better-than-average blood pressure at 118/80, and his cholesterol levels had fallen to 196.

And away from Trump’s physical health, numerous White House insiders and medical practitioners have cast doubt on the president’s mental health and his ability to discharge his duties.

“If Donald Trump were your father, you would run, not walk, to a neurologist for an evaluation of his cognitive health,” says John Gartner in USA Today.

Trump has repeatedly referred to himself as “a very stable genius”.

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