Health and Medical History of President

Herbert Hoover

President #31
Lived: 1874-1964 Served: 1929-1933

Timeline from 1776: ← 2013

"A sound doctor must be opposed to exercise and in favor of tobacco." 1a

Maladies and Conditions

Almost suffocated from croup at age 2. His Aunt Agnes wrote: "We all thought he was dead. ... The eyes of the infant were pressed closed with pennies; and a sheet was drawn over his body; but after resuscitation by his uncle, John Minthorn, Herbert stirred to life." 1b

childhood ills
Hoover had several health problems as a child, including measles, mumps, diphtheria, earache, and chicken pox. He badly burned a foot when he stepped, barefoot, on a hot iron in his father's blacksmith shop. Another time, he almost chopped off his right index finger while playing with a hatchet. 1b

Reliability of this information is uncertain. 2

Is reported to have not missed a day of work during his presidency as a result of illness 1c. This was despite a gruelling work schedule and an aversion to exercise MORE.

handshake problems
The annual White House reception, in which Hoover had to shake hands with thousands of visitors, was a problem. His hand was at times so swollen that he could not write for days. Once he received a bad cut from a diamond ring that was turned inward; the reception was abruptly halted. 1a

gall bladder
Hoover had a gall bladder attack in 1949 (age 75), which he described to reporters as "Much ado about nothing." In 1958, while attending the Brussels World Fair, he developed abdominal pain and was diagnosed with cholecystitis. His gall bladder was removed. 1a

Shingles, while working with the Truman Commission (?1947).

intestinal cancer
A malignant intestinal tumor was removed in his 88th year. Ten months later he had severe gastrointestinal bleeding and seemed terminally ill. He improved. In early 1964, he was frail, but his mind was clear and he maintained a great deal of correspondence. 1a

deaf and nearly blind
In his later he years he was "deaf and nearly blind." 1a Hoover could use this to his advantage. In 1963 there were several celebratory events upon the successful conclusion of NASA's Project Mercury...
Finally there was another banquet, with a lot of speeches. Former president Herbert Hoover was there, sitting next to Walt Williams at the head table. When Jim Webb [the chief of NASA] got up to talk, I noticed Hoover whispering in Williams's ear. I asked about it later.

"He asked who that was," Williams said. "When I told him Jim Webb, he turned his hearing aid off and asked me to poke him when Webb was finished." 3a

GI hemorrhage
Gastrointestinal bleeding recurred in February 1964, and was complicated by pneumonia. He lingered until October, when a severe gastrointestinal hemorrhage occurred. He refused to be hospitalized, and died in a coma on October 20, 1964. 1d
Odds & Ends
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Cited Resources
  1. Bumgarner, John R. The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician's Point of View. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company, 1994.0899509568 Libraries 93-42000. ap. 203 bp. 201 cp. 202 dp. 204 epp. 201-202
    Comment: Devotes one chapter to each President, through Clinton. Written for the layperson, well-referenced, with areas of speculation clearly identified, Dr. Zebra depends heavily on this book. Dr. Bumgarner survived the Bataan Death March and has written an unforgettable book casting a physician's eye on that experience.
  2. Dugan, James. Bedlam in the boudoir. Colliers. 22 Feb. 1947; pages 17, 69-70.
    Comment: Credibility is dubious. Just before a list of Presidents, the article states: "Twenty of the 32 Presidents ... are proved or believed on a thick web of circumstance to have been nocturnal nuisances in the White House."
  3. Kraft, Christopher. Flight: My Life in Mission Control. New York: Dutton, 2001.0525945717 Libraries 00057291. ap. 188
  4. Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh (ed). Burke's Presidential Families of the United States of America. 2nd ed. London: Burke's Peerage Limited, 1981.0850110335 Libraries. ap. 480
    Comment: Enumerates the ancestors and descendants of American presidents up through Ronald Reagan.
Other Resources
Alternate index terms: Herbert Clark Hoover
George Washington · John Adams · Thomas Jefferson · James Madison · James Monroe · John Q. Adams · Andrew Jackson · Martin van Buren · William Harrison · John Tyler · James Polk · Zachary Taylor · Millard Fillmore · Franklin Pierce · James Buchanan · Abraham Lincoln · Andrew Johnson · Ulysses Grant · Rutherford Hayes · James Garfield · Chester Arthur · Grover Cleveland · Benjamin Harrison · William McKinley · Theodore Roosevelt · William Taft · Woodrow Wilson · Warren Harding · Calvin Coolidge · Herbert Hoover · Franklin Roosevelt · Harry Truman · Dwight Eisenhower · John Kennedy · Lyndon Johnson · Richard Nixon · Gerald Ford · James Carter · Ronald Reagan · George Bush · William Clinton · George W. Bush · Barack Obama