Back in 2008, I joined over a dozen journalists and physicians in Phoenix to review Sen. John McCain’s health records. It was clear to me at the time that all the attention paid to his history of melanoma had more to do with an attempt to derail his candidacy as opposed to a legitimate medical concern or a concern for whether he was in shape to run the country.
I remember thinking at the time that this verged on ageism. Why hadn’t similar scrutiny been placed on President Bill Clinton who had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a poor diet and poor sleep habits? Shouldn’t a cardiac work-up have been mandated or did some kind of macho politics keep us from asking until he had left office and required an emergency bypass operation. I interviewed Clinton’s surgeon, who said all his coronary arteries had been clogged for many years.
Has anyone asked that President Obama, a long time smoker, who only quit recently, to undergo a cardiac workup?
Now along comes Michele Bachmann, a migraine sufferer, one of millions (approximately 28 million in the U.S.). The left wing media is questioning her ability to govern, despite the fact that she is already a responsible congresswoman and attorney.
Yes, she appears to suffer from migraines that are occasionally intractable, but most migraines are treatable and even preventable these days. Medications, careful dieting, and most recently Botox injections have altered the terrain.
Migraine sufferers are taught to get regular sleep, to exercise, and to avoid certain foods such as aged cheese, nuts, chocolate, red wine, and beer which may act as triggers. Supplements such as magnesium and riboflavin have been shown to be helpful, and medications have been useful as preventatives, tryptans when there is already an aura but not yet pain.
Bottom line: most migraines are eminently treatable or preventable with the help of a neurologist who specializes in headaches.
But consider that three to four times more migraine sufferers are women. Consider that these migraines are frequently hormonally triggered especially in pre-menopausal are peri-menopausal women like the congresswoman. I believe that all the attention being lavished on this issue by non-physicians has much more to do with the fact that she is a woman than any risk to function from the migraines per se.
There is also a stereotype at work here; that women are the only ones afflicted. These days, more and more men and children are being diagnosed with migraines all the time.
We may need to know the medical facts about our candidates, but we can do without the sexist spin.
Marc Siegel M.D. is an associate professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is a Fox News Medical Contributor and the author of "The Inner Pulse; Unlocking the Secret Code of Sickness and Health"