President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) listen on Feb. 7, 2023, in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden received a mostly positive review of his health from doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Thursday after undergoing his annual physical.
The official evaluation of Biden’s health comes as the former vice president and longtime U.S. senator from Delaware weighs whether to run for reelection in 2024.
“President Biden remains a healthy, vigorous, 80-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency, to include those as chief executive, head of state and commander in chief,” Dr. Kevin O’Connor wrote in a five-page summary.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday afternoon before the report was released that Biden is confident he will be able to keep up with the demands of being president in six years, when he would be 86.
“This is a president that works day-in and day-out in a grueling fashion with a grueling schedule and delivers,” Jean-Pierre said.
Thursday’s report on Biden’s health was similar to the report on his last physical, in November 2021, when O’Connor wrote the president remained “a healthy, vigorous, 78-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the president.”
In both reports O’Connor noted Biden was being treated for a common type of heart arrhythmia called non-valvular atrial fibrillation for which Biden remained “completely asymptomatic,” hyperlipidemia or high cholesterol, gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux, seasonal allergies, a stiffened gait, spinal arthritis and mild sensory peripheral neuropathy of both feet.
Peripheral neuropathy is often the result of damage to nerves outside the brain and spinal cord; in this case, Biden’s feet. It can result in weakness, numbness, or pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The National Institutes of Health estimates more than 20 million Americans have some type of peripheral neuropathy.
All of the conditions were listed as stable in Thursday’s report, though the November 2021 report listed the stiff gait as newly significant and neuropathy of the feet as a new finding.
“The president’s gait appears to be perceptibly stiffer and less fluid than it has been in the past,” O’Connor wrote in November 2021, noting that Biden said he experiences early morning stiffness that improves through the day.
“As previously reported, he has sustained a number of orthopedic and sports related injuries over the years, and is followed by physical therapy for ongoing wellness and fitness exercises prescription,” he wrote in November 2021. “It is also well known that approximately a year ago, he sustained a fracture in his right midfoot, which could certainly contribute to a gait abnormality.”
In Thursday’s report, O’Connor wrote that while Biden’s gait remains stiff, it hasn’t “worsened since last year.” Symptoms from the peripheral neuropathy have not progressed and his exam during Thursday’s physical was “a bit improved,” according to O’Connor.
Physical therapy and exercise, O’Connor wrote, would “continue to focus on general flexibility” to address Biden’s stiffened gait while custom orthotics would continue being used to address the peripheral neuropathy in his feet.
Biden continues taking three prescription medications — Crestor to treat high cholesterol, Dymista nasal spray for allergies and Eliquis to prevent blood clots — and two over-the-counter medications — Allegra for allergies and Pepcid for acid reflux.
Biden’s physical Thursday also included screenings for skin cancer, an eye exam and dental visit, all of which were listed as routine, though one small lesion from his chest was sent for a skin cancer biopsy.
The most notable update to the president’s medical history since the last physical, O’Connor wrote, was his COVID-19 diagnosis in July 2022 and his rebound COVID-19. Biden has not experienced any symptoms of long COVID-19 since then, he wrote.
“Fortunately, having been fully vaccinated and twice boosted at the time of initial infection, the president experienced only mild symptoms, consisting mostly of a deep, loose cough and hoarseness,” O’Connor wrote, adding Biden has since gotten the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine.
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