Biden declared 'healthy' and 'vigorous' after his first presidential physical exam

US President Joe Biden waves as he departs Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Nov 19, 2021, following a routine physical exam. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - United States President Joe Biden's personal physician said on Friday (Nov 19) that he was a "healthy, vigorous, 78-year-old" who was fit to carry out his duties, after the president underwent a full medical evaluation and briefly transferred powers to the vice-president so he could undergo a colonoscopy.

Dr Kevin O'Connor, the president's physician, said that Mr Biden had developed a "more pronounced" tendency to cough and clear his throat during speaking engagements. After running tests, including those meant to detect 19 various respiratory pathogens, Dr O'Connor said the culprit was gastroesophageal reflux, or acid reflux, a condition treatable with Pepcid.

Dr O'Connor also said that Mr Biden's gait had become stiffer, which he said had been caused by age-related changes in the president's spine. He added that an "extremely detailed neurologic exam" had ruled out the possibility that the stiffness could be caused by a stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's or other neurological disorders.

A foot fracture Mr Biden suffered last year "has healed nicely", Dr O'Connor said, though he added that the President could benefit from orthopedic shoes.

A 3mm "benign-looking" polyp was found during what Dr O'Connor said was a regularly scheduled colonoscopy, and a pathologist's evaluation of the polyp is expected to be completed next week.

Mr Biden's lipid levels are "remarkably low," Dr O'Connor said.

During the colonoscopy, Vice-President Kamala Harris became the first woman to assume acting presidential duties. She spent that 85-minute span of time in her West Wing office watching live television coverage of the House passing a large social spending package, her office said.

Polling released by Politico and Morning Consult this week found that a growing number of voters do not think that Mr Biden is in good health and that voters are about evenly split on whether he is mentally fit. Dr O'Connor did not say in his report whether Mr Biden underwent cognitive testing, which many doctors recommend for older adults.

Dr O'Connor said Mr Biden's physical exam was "fundamentally unchanged from baseline" aside from new findings that concluded he had mild peripheral neuropathy, a condition defined by nerve damage, pain and stiffening in the feet. Despite extensive testing, the team found no cause for that condition.

Mr Biden's height, 5 feet, 11 inches (180cm), and weight, 184 pounds (83kg), earned him a body mass index of 25, which is on the low end of overweight.

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