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Posted by on Feb 21, 2011 in Medical history

Presidents Plagued by Physical Limitations

Presidents Plagued by Physical Limitations


By drawing mostly from cited data at Dr. Zebra, a list of presidential ailments is compiled in honor of our nation’s all-too-mortal Commanders-in-Chief.

1.      George Washington: poor dentition, possibly due to mercury oxide treatments for various infectious diseases

2.      John Adams: depression; hypochondria

3.      Thomas Jefferson: recurrent, persistent headaches; chronic back pain

4.      James Madison: psychogenic epilepsy; chronic biliousness

5.      James Monroe: recurrent malaria; possible pulmonary tuberculosis

6.      John Quincy Adams: cerebrovascular disease

7.      Andrew Jackson: smallpox; malaria; heart failure

8.      Martin Van Buren: alcoholism; obesity; gout

9.      William Henry Harrison: generally healthy; died of pneumonia

10.   John Tyler: transient, generalized paralysis—possibly Guillain Barre syndrome; cerebrovascular disease (TIAs, stroke)

11.   James K. Polk: generally healthy; died of cholera

12.   Zachary Taylor: yellow fever; recurrent malaria

13.   Millard Fillmore: generally healthy (medical history as boring as his Presidency)

14.   Franklin Pierce: chronic depression; alcoholism; tuberculosis

15.   James Buchanan: blepharospasm?; alcoholism

16.   Abraham Lincoln: malaria; depression; smallpox

17.   Andrew Johnson: typhoid fever

18.   Ulysses S. Grant: alcoholism; tobacco abuse

19.   Rutherford B. Hayes: generally healthy (see Millard Fillmore)

20.   James Garfield: malaria

21.   Chester Arthur: alcoholism; Bright’s disease; hypertension

22.   Grover Cleveland: obesity; alcoholism; tobacco abuse; cancer of the jaw

23.   Benjamin Harrison: recurrent “breakdowns” or “nervous collapse”

25.   William McKinley: generally healthy; possible bout of influenza (“grippe”)

26.   Theodore Roosevelt: severe myopia; unilateral deafness; overweight (if not obese)

27.   William H. Taft: morbid obesity; gout; sleep apnea

28.   Woodrow Wilson: possible dyslexia; cerebrovascular disease

29.   Warren G. Harding: recurrent mental illness; tobacco abuse; cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease

30.   Calvin Coolidge: chronic depression

31.   Herbert Hoover: cholecystitis; intestinal cancer

32.   Franklin D. Roosevelt: polio; hypertension; cerebral hemorrhage; possible melanoma

33.   Harry S. Truman: paralytic diphtheria as child; presbyopia; cardiac failure

34.   Dwight D. Eisenhower: history of tobacco abuse; Crohn disease; coronary artery disease; cerebrovascular disease

35.   John F. Kennedy: chronic back pain; possible autoimmune endocrine deficiency (hypothyroidism, Addison disease)

36.   Lyndon B. Johnson: coronary artery disease; cholecystitis and/or cholelithiasis

37.   Richard M. Nixon: venous thromboembolism; possible blepharospasm; cerebrovascular disease

38.   Gerald Ford: tobacco abuse; tongue abscess due to Actinomycetes; coronary artery disease

39.   James Carter: hemorrhoids

40.   Ronald Reagan: myopia; chronic prostate problems; colon cancer; Alzheimer disease

41.   George H. W. Bush: history of “bleeding ulcers”; atrial fibrillation; Graves disease

42.   William J. Clinton: gastroesophageal reflux disease; coronary artery disease

43.   George W. Bush: hemorrhoids; alcoholism; substance abuse; syncope; colonic polyps

44.   Barack Obama: tobacco abuse

bmartin (1082 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.