Bernie Sanders released letters from three physicians on Monday affirming that he is healthy and fit both to run for president and to hold the highest office in the country.
Sanders, 78, an independent senator from Vermont who is seeking the Democratic presidential nod, is under pressure to demonstrate his health after having a heart attack in October that sidelined him for a couple of weeks.
Dr. Martin LeWinter, a cardiologist at the University of Vermont medical center who is treating Sanders, said his recovery after the heart attack and the insertion of two stents has been “uneventful” and that his “heart function is stable and well-preserved.” LeWinter further stated that Sanders is getting exercise and shows signs of “above average” capacity for physical exertion.
“At this point, I can see no reason he cannot continue campaigning without limitation, and should he be elected,” LeWinter concluded.
Dr. Brian Monahan, whose practice in the U.S. Capitol in Washington has attended to Sanders’ care over the course of his 29-year tenure in Congress, provided details of Sanders’ statistics. Sanders is 6 feet tall, weighs 174 pounds, has a pulse of 62 beats per minute, and his blood pressure is 102 over 56, according to Monahan.
Monahan attested that Sanders exercises regularly, has no history of smoking and “seldom” drinks alcohol.
Congress’s office of the attending physician has, over the years, treated Sanders for a host of minor conditions: gout, high cholesterol, diverticulitis, laryngitis, lower back pain and “superficial” skin lesions. Sanders has also undergone surgeries for hernia repair and removal of a vocal cord cyst.
In a third letter, Dr. Phillip Ades, director of cardiac rehabilitation at the University of Vermont medical center, said that Sanders was able to exercise at a level over 50% higher than other men his age.
Sanders is “more than fit enough to pursue vigorous activities and an occupation that requires stamina and an ability to handle a great deal of stress,” Ades wrote.
The letters from Sanders’ physicians did not include descriptions of conditions he is currently being treated for or medications he is taking. By contrast, former Vice President Joe Biden, a 77-year-old survivor of multiple aneurysms, disclosed his ongoing treatment for atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and other conditions when he released a doctor’s letter in mid-December. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), 70, also released a doctor’s letter attesting to her “excellent health” at the start of the month.
If elected, either Sanders or Biden would be the oldest president ever to serve. President Donald Trump, 73, currently holds the title for the oldest person to become commander in chief. (He edged out Ronald Reagan by a few months.)
Although there is no evidence that doctors have deliberately falsified information about presidential candidates, the release of these certifications of candidates’ health is a fundamentally political activity. Doctors have the capacity to shape public perceptions of candidates through inclusion or omission of relevant information, as well as injecting their opinions about a candidate’s fitness.
Trump took the tradition to an extreme, however. Trump initially released a letter from his personal physician claiming that he would be the “healthiest individual ever elected president.” The doctor, Harold Bornstein, subsequently said that Trump had dictated that letter.
For Sanders, the pressure is greater than it is on most candidates. Polling immediately after the heart attack showed that his health was a source of major concern among Democrats, as well as the larger voting population. Some older voters in Iowa and South Carolina also told HuffPost it was a concern.
Sanders has taken to demonstrating his athleticism on the campaign trail, including by shooting basketball hoops with Jimmy Fallon on NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” The senator has also adopted a healthier diet and begun taking long walks with his wife, Jane, as a form of exercise, according to a New York Times report.
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