Health and Medical History of President

George W. Bush

President #43
Lived: 1946-Date Served: 2001-2009

Timeline from 1776: ← 2013

Maladies and Conditions

tonsillectomy
At age 5 19

appendectomy
In 1956 4

"fatty cyst"
A "fatty cyst" was removed from Bush's chest in 1960 19. Comment: It was probably a lipoma.

back surgery
At some point, Bush has had surgery for sports-related back injuries 4.

hemorrhoid
Bush had a hemorrhoid during the period of his National Guard enlistment (1968-1973) 19.

Comment: Before howling at Dr. Zebra for publicizing Presidential piles, consider: (1) "The data are the data." The hemorrhoid is clearly documented. It is medical. Thus, there is no reason to omit it. (2) A hemorrhoid is not always as lowly or as insignificant as you are may think. Hemorrhoids are often associated with fiber-poor diets (as are colonic polyps, which Bush has had). Hemorrhoids may be a sign of abnormal blood circulation in the liver (although Bush has admitted abusing alcohol, there is no other evidence he has suffered liver complications). Hemorrhoids can sometimes lead to severe complications: liver abscesses are rare, but severe bleeding from hemorrhoids is less so. Because of his bleeding hemorrhoids in 1941, Franklin Roosevelt lost almost two-thirds of all the hemoglobin in his body.


flight physical
As an Air National Guard pilot, Bush would have been required to have a physical examination each year, no later than July 31. (Flight physicals in the USAF/ANG expire on the last day of one's birth month. Bush was born July 6.) Examinations can be accomplished as early as 3 months before one's birth month.

Thus, when Bush was ordered on May 4, 1972 to undergo a flight physical, this would most likely have been the routine start of the 3 month physical exam window. On May 19, Bush asked his superiors how to "get out of coming to drill from now through November" 9. Flying examinations are normally given only at drill.

On August 1, Bush was grounded, in part (?wholly) because he had failed to complete his flight physical 9.

Comment: Failure to complete a flight physical is a serious matter in the military flying community. Because failure grounds the pilot, the overall readiness of the flying unit decreases. Readiness is the Air National Guard's primary mission.


many fillings
During the 2004 presidential campaign the White House released notes made during a dental examination of Bush in 1973. The examination was performed at an Air National Guard base in Alabama. The released notes showed extensive dental work and no wisdom teeth. MORE

blood type O
Both of Bush's parents have O-positive blood 3a. We can, therefore, conclude that Bush is type O, but can only say he is probably Rh-positive. There is a chance he could be Rh-negative.

alcohol abuse
He has admitted problems with alcohol consumption in the remote past. The week before election day 2000, reporters found record of an arrest ? conviction ? for driving while intoxicated in the 1970s.

It is unclear whether the DUI mentioned above is the same as the following incident: In late 1972 Bush took his then-16-year-old brother Marvin out drinking. On the way home Bush ran his car over a neighbor's garbage cans. Confronted by his father, George W. challenged elder Bush to go "mano a mano" outside 16 22.

Bush told his doctors in August 2001 that he currently abstains from alcohol. In 1999 he released a three-page statement from doctors saying he had "totally abstained from alcohol during the past 13 years" 4.


cocaine use
During his 2000 presidential campaign there were persistent questions about a history of cocaine use. Eventually Bush denied using cocaine since 1992, then quickly extended the cocaine-free period back to 1974 (age 28). NBC reporter David Bloom then noted "that current White House appointees must disclose any drug use since their 18th birthday" 13. Bush, however, refused to make a disclosure, instead admitting he'd made mistakes in the past, and if voters didn't like that "they can go find somebody else to vote for. That's the wonderful thing about democracy" 13.

Comment: Dr. Zebra concludes Bush used cocaine in his 20s. (Should someone protest that there is no smoking gun, Dr. Zebra reminds them that medicine has its own standards of proof. Consider, for example, a 60 year old smoker with one hour of unrelenting squeezing midline chest discomfort, plus nausea and EKG changes. That is not "an alleged heart attack," it is a heart attack unless proven otherwise. Same thing here.) Cocaine use has clear medical implications. For example, it is associated with elevated risk of acquiring chronic diseases, such as viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted disease. Acutely, it can trigger cardiac or cerebro-vascular catastrophe.


tobacco chewing
At least for a time in business school, he chewed tobacco 16. (Copenhagen, apparently.)

colonic polyps
Discovered and removed in 1998 and 1999. See below.

escape dive
In 1999 Bush was jogging on a path in Austin, TX when a truck trailer overturned nearby. As chunks of concrete and wood dumped behind him he dove for cover, scraping his right leg and hip 17.

physically fit
As of August 2001 4: Bush runs an average of three miles, four times a week, and "also routinely cross-trains with swimming, free weights and an elliptical trainer." He reportedly runs a mile in 7 to 8 minutes. His physicians classified him in the top 2% of men his age for cardiovascular fitness. He went 26 minutes on a treadmill test (protocol unnamed), attaining a heart rate of 178 beats per minute 24. Bush's resting heart rate was 43 beats/minute, and his blood pressure 118/74 mmHg. His total cholesterol level was 170 mg/dl 4.

As of November 2003 he could lift as much as 215 pounds, but due to a torn meniscus he has decreased his running, with a consequent increase in his per-mile time from 7 minutes to 9 minutes 11.


actinic keratoses
Actinic keratoses are pre-cancerous sun-induced skin lesions. Three such lesions were removed from Bush's face on August 4, 2001 using liquid nitrogen 4.

height & weight
At his August 2001 physical, Bush was supposedly 6 feet 0 inches tall, and weighed 189.75 pounds. (Given that degree of precision in his weight, it probably represented his weight without clothes, or perhaps with a hospital gown.) At his physical the previous year, he weighed 194.5 pounds. His body fat was 14.5% in 2001, down from 19.94% the previous year 4.

USA Today, however, says that Bush is 5 feet, 11 and 3/4 inches tall 20 and Bush's much-discussed National Guard records list him as 5 feet 11 inches tall while in his mid-20s.

Comment: There is no medical reason to measure body fat to a precision of .01%, and it is probably not even possible to do so with any known technique. Consequently, there is certainly no medical reason to report body fat to that degree of precision, unless the aim is to enhance the President's image of fitness by touting a body fat below 20%. Similarly, it is no stretch (pun intended) to imagine that his height was rounded up to the more macho-sounding six feet. All this gives a new meaning to the phrase "Spin Doctors."


cigars
President Bush smokes "an occasional cigar" 4.

facial lesions
On December 14, 2001, Bush had four noncancerous skin lesions removed from his face. The Press learned of this only when Bush appeared before cameras with dark red spots on his face 4. Commment: These are most likely actinic keratoses, as were the lesions removed from his face in August 2001, or perhaps basal cell carcinomas.

Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, had a similar procedure 8 months later.


syncope
On January 13, 2002, Bush lost consciousness while sitting on a couch in the White House, watching a football game. His head hit the floor, resulting in an abrasion on his left cheekbone and a small bruise on his lower lip. The incident was blamed on a combination of (a) Bush not feeling well in previous days, and (b) an improperly eaten pretzel. Their combined effect was to slow the President's heart. (The description suggests a vaso-vagal attack.) The period of unconsciousness was brief 5 2.

Interestingly, his father George H. W. Bush also suffered a syncopal episode while President.


colonic polyps
Two benign colonic polyps were removed in 1998 and 1999, while Bush was governor of Texas 28.

Bush underwent follow-up colonoscopy on June 29, 2002, at Camp David. He denied signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer, but underwent the procedure to be "super-cautious" about his health 28. The results of the examination were reported to be normal. Supposedly, another of the reasons Bush underwent the procedure was "to underscore its importance for people over 50 who are at risk" 15.

Before the 20-minute procedure, Bush invoked section 3 of the 25th Amendment, temporarily transferring Presidential powers to Vice President Cheney MORE -- the first time an official transfer of power had been made under that provision of the Constitution. Bush commented: "I'm the first president to have done so (transferred power) under this type of procedure and/or physical examination. I did so because we're at war" 15.
Comment: It is often written that Ronald Reagan used section 3 of the 25th Amendment to transfer power to his Vice President on July 13, 1985 before undergoing surgery for colon cancer. However, Reagan did not explicitly invoke the 25th Amendement 3b.

Details of the procedure were released MORE. Bush will likely undergo repeat colonoscopy in 5 years 15.


smallpox vaccine
On the day he ordered smallpox vaccination of military members (Dec. 13, 2002), President Bush announced: "This particular vaccine does involve a small risk of serious health considerations. As Commander-in-Chief, I do not believe I can ask others to accept this risk unless I am willing to do the same. Therefore I will receive the vaccine along with our military" MORE 27. There were no plans to immunize Bush's family 10, staff 10, the Cabinet 7, or governors 7.

Bush had no ill effects from the vaccine 8, unlike the experience of John Adams. Bush's public smallpox vaccination follows the example of Harry Truman.


Segway fall
While holding a tennis raquet that may have impaired his coordination, Bush fell from a Segway scooter at the family compound in Kennebunkport, ME in June 2003. He was uninjured... except for the photographs of the event 17.

torn meniscus
Time Magazine reports Bush has had to curtail his workout routine in November 2003 "thanks to a torn meniscus in his knee," but does not say which knee or how it happened 11. X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging in December 2004 found damage in both knees; cross-training was recommended 17. Bush then took up mountain biking 1, but it's unclear if he pursues this while in Washington.

ear lobe creases and ?hair
The picture on a November 2002 book's dust jacket clearly shows prominent creases in both of Bush's ear lobes 29. Comment: The significance of ear lobe creases has been controversial. They were proposed as a marker for increased cardiovascular risk in the 1970s. Why ear lobe creases should be associated with arterial pathology has never been clearly explained -- a tendency to "fibrosis" has been a common but unsatisfactory explanation. The multiple studies of ear lobe creases and cardiovascular disease have yielded conflicting results. Most physicians place little stock in the sign, but that does not mean it should be ignored, even in an aerobically fit man such as Bush.

The Time Magazine cover of Dec. 1, 2003 confirms an ear lobe crease on the right and suggests the presence of hair in the ear canal. The combination of and ear lobe crease and hair in the ear canal has been reported as more predictive of coronary artery disease than either alone 25 26.


cancelled physical
Bush delayed his annual August physical examination in 2004 until after the November 2 election. His spokesman cited the heavy travel schedule associated with the campaign. Bush's physicians were amenable to the postponement 1.

debate medicine
Bush's Presidential debates with John Kerry in 2004 provided an unexpected and rich set of potential medical observations of Bush, including eye blinking, jaw thrusting, mouth spittle, and jacket bulging MORE. The significance of these observations is currently unknown, but they are recorded here should something develop later (even decades later).

internet hoaxes
In July 2004, and again in July 2005, serious-sounding stories appeared on the Internet claiming that Dr. Richard Tubb was medicating Bush for psychiatric difficulties. Dr. Zebra has examined these stories and does not find them credible. For readers wanting to waste time, Google searches to find the stories are here (2005) and here (2004). It hardly seems worth reporting that a blogger speculated in February 2004 that Bush had had cosmetic surgery on his nose.

bicycle falls
Because of knee problems (see above), Bush took up bicycling for fitness. On May 22, 2004, he fell from his mountain bike during the 16th mile of a 17-mile course. (One report says he "sailed over the handlebars" 21.) Aids said Bush was going fast over topsoil that had been loosened by rain. He was wearing a helmet and mouthguard. Bush suffered "scrapes and scratches on his chin, upper lip, nose, right hand and both knees" 17.

On July 7, 2005 Bush was bicycling fast in Scotland, about 45 minutes into his usual one-hour ride, when his mountain bike skidded out from under him on slick pavement. Bush (and/or the bicycle) hit a member of the local security detail. Bush was wearing a helmet. He suffered minor scrapes and bruises of the left hand and arm. Dr. Richard Tubb, the President's physician, bandaged the hand, and was sent to look after the Scottish officer. 21 23


jaw mannerism
As Bush's presidency entered difficult times in September-October 2005, commentators noticed the reappearance of a sterotyped jaw movement previously evident during the 2004 Presidential campaign debates MORE.

Most of the proposed causes are ill-informed zebra hunting. Instead, consider this simple recollection Bush had about the final weeks of 2002, when the decision to invade Iraq was looming ever larger:

There was a lot of stress. Yeah, I felt stressed. My jaw muscles got so tight. And it was not because I was smiling and shaking so many hands. There was a lot of tension during that last holiday season. 30a
Comment: It thus appears that Bush develops a certain jaw mannerism when stressed. Furthermore, like all humans, his body language changes when stressed 18 30b.
Odds & Ends
Resources
 
Bush
1286 reviews
Cited Resources
  1. (Agence France-Presse). Bush postpones election-year doctor's visit. Yahoo!. 5 October 2004.
  2. (Reuters). Bush faints watching TV, doctor says he is fine. Yahoo!. 13 January 2002, 8:50 PM ET.
  3. Abrams, Herbert L. "The President Has Been Shot": Confusion, Disability, and the 25th Amendment in the Aftermath of the Attempted Assassination of Ronald Reagan. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992.0393030423 Libraries 91-15846. app. 59-60 bpp. 199-201
  4. Allen, Mike. Bush found to be fit; 3 lesions removed. Washington Post. 5 August 2001, page A16.
  5. Allen, Mike. Bush faints while eating a pretzel. Washington Post. 14 January 2002, page A1.
  6. Anonymous. US President snapped requesting "bathroom break". ABC News Online (Australia). 16 September 2005.
  7. Associated Press. Health Secretary won't get smallpox shot. Washington Post. 16 December 2002.
    Comment: Accessed from www.washingtonpost.com
  8. Associated Press. White House: Bush shows no ill effects from smallpox vaccination. washingtonpost.com. Jan. 6, 2003; 3:06 pm.
    Comment: Accessed from www.washingtonpost.com
  9. Associated Press. Timeline of Bush's ANG service. Yahoo.com. Sept. 9, 2004; 7:25 pm ET.
    Comment: Accessed from www.yahoo.com
  10. Connolly, Ceci. Bush announces smallpox inoculation plans. Washington Post. Dec. 13, 2002.
    Comment: Accessed from www.washingtonpost.com
  11. Cooper, Matthew; Dickerson, John F.; Waller, Douglas. Notes from the Oval Office: pumped up. Time. Nov. 10, 2003; page 24.
  12. Frank, Justin A. Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President. NY: Regan Books (HarperCollins), 2004.0060736704 Libraries.
  13. Gibbs, Nancy. "I've made mistakes..." Bush says he's been drug-free for seven -- no, 25 years. Time. Aug. 30, 1999.
    Comment: Accessed from www.time.com
  14. Gold, Matea. You can rule out spontaneity in the debates. Los Angeles Times. Sept. 30, 2004.
  15. Knutson, Lawrence L.. Bush resumes office following colon test. Washington Post. June 29, 2002.
    Comment: Accessed from www.washingtonpost.com
  16. Lardner, George Jr.; Romano, Lois. At height of Vietnam, Bush picks Guard. Washington Post. July 28, 1999; page A1.
    Comment: Accessed from www.washingtonpost.com
  17. Milbank, Dana. Bush takes tuble during bicycle ride: President suffers scrapes, scratches. Washington Post. May 23, 2004; page A10.
    Comment: Accessed from www.washingtonpost.com: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48380-2004May22.html
  18. Milbank, Dana. For President Under Duress, Body Language Speaks Volumes. Washington Post. October 12, 2005; page A07.
  19. Milbank, Dana; Allen, Mike. Many gaps in Bush's Guard records: released papers do not document Ala. service. Washington Post. Feb. 14, 2004; page A1.
    Comment: Accessed from www.washingtonpost.com
  20. Page, Susan. Time-tested formulas suggest both Bush and Kerry will win on Nov. 2. USA Today. June 23, 2004.
  21. Raum, Tom. Bush says he's fine after bicycle accident. Guardian Unlimited (U.K.). July 7, 2005, 10:31 am.
  22. Romano, Lois; Allen, Mike. Guard records on President are released. WashingtonPost.com. 11 February 2004.
  23. Silva, Mark. "B" is for Bush, birthday, bluster and botching up . Chicago Tribune on-line edition. July 7, 2005.
  24. Simon, Harvey B. On call. Harvard Men's Health Watch. January 2002, page 8.
  25. Verma SK, et al. Ear-lobe crease and ear-canal hair as predictors of coronary artery disease in Indian population. Indian Heart J. 1989;41(2):86-91. Pubmed 2744803.
  26. Wager FR Jr et al. Ear-canal hair and the ear-lobe crease as predictors for coronary-artery disease. N Engl J Med. 1984;311:1317-1318. Pubmed 6493285.
  27. White House Office of the Press Secretary. Remarks by the President on smallpox vaccination. [Full text of the press release is on-line]. 13 December 2002.
  28. Wilson, Patricia (Reuters). Bush to be sedated for colon check Saturday. Yahoo!. 28 June 2002, 7:50 PM ET.
  29. Woodward, Bob. Bush at War. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2002.0743204735 Libraries.
  30. Woodward, Bob. Plan of Attack. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2004.0743255488 Libraries 200113591133. ap. 251 bp. 270
Other Resources
Alternate index terms: George Walker Bush, George Bush
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