Published March 01, 2010
Doctors say President Obama is "fit for duty," but that doesn't mean he's making all the right lifestyle choices.
After the president underwent a 90-minute physical exam at the National Naval Medical Center Sunday morning, Navy Capt. Jeffery Kuhlman, the chief White House physician, declared him to be in "excellent health."
But Kuhlman still had some healthy recommendations for the president. First and foremost: "Continue smoking cessation efforts."
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Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a New York City-based cardiologist, said that despite the president's clean bill of health, he may still be at risk for heart disease, because he is a smoker in a high-stress job.
“It’s great that he is physically fit, but it won’t counteract the fact that he still smokes,” Goldberg said. “To reduce his risk of cardiac disease, you can count his exercising as a benefit, but he needs to quit smoking.”
Goldberg said stress not only can raise a person’s blood pressure, but it can cause him to pay less attention to his health.
Obama will return for another physical exam next summer when he turns 50. Until then, he is going to have to put some extra effort toward his overall wellness.
“President Obama shows that like all Americans, he is a regular person, he is going to have to work on taking care of his health just like we do,” Goldberg said.
Dr. Len Horovitz, attending physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said he thinks too much emphasis has been put on Obama’s fitness.
“Exercise does not reverse effects of smoking on the lung,” Horovitz said. “He’s thin, which is nice, but smoking is the worst habit out there.”
This is not the first time Obama has been advised to kick the habit. In the past, he has used nicotine replacement therapy, most commonly in the form of nicotine gum. African American men are at a much higher risk for stroke and heart disease, conditions that smoking increases the chances of.
“Even a few cigarettes a day triples your risk of heart disease, so it’s not like a little bit of smoking is OK,” Horowitz said. “Since he is a black man he has higher chance of developing high blood pressure, and even though his blood pressure was very good, the game is not over yet.”
Before Obama began his run for president, Michelle Obama told the public that her husband had quit smoking for good.
“The president is great role model in every other health respect besides smoking,” Horowitz said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.