WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will be the patient, not the commander in chief offering comfort, when he visits the Walter Reed military hospital on Friday.
Trump is headed to the medical facility in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington, for his first medical checkup as president. But what has been a fairly routine exam for previous officeholders has taken on outsized importance in the age of Trump, given the tone of some of his tweets, comments attributed to some of his close advisers and Trump's recent slurring of words on national TV.
Some of the comments were published in a new book about Trump's first year, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff, which White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has denounced as “complete fantasy” for portraying her 71-year-old boss as undisciplined and in over his head as president.
Trump himself has pushed back hard against any suggestion that he's mentally unfit, declaring himself “a very stable genius.”
Some questions and answers about Trump's physical:
What questions will the exam answer?
The exam, lasting several hours, will measure things like Trump's blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, heart rate and weight.
Conclusions about his mental acuity aren't expected. The White House said Trump will not undergo a psychiatric exam. Officials did not address a different type of screening: assessments of cognitive status that examine neurologic functions including memory. Cognitive assessments aren't routine in standard physicals, though they recently became covered in Medicare's annual wellness visits for seniors.
Is the exam mandatory?
No, but modern presidents typically undergo them regularly and release a doctor's report declaring they are “fit for duty.”
What’s known about Trump’s health?
Two months before the November 2016 election, Trump released a five-paragraph letter from his longtime physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, who concluded that Trump “is in excellent physical health.” A year earlier, Bornstein said in a December 2015 letter: “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
The 2016 letter put Trump's blood pressure and cholesterol measurements in the healthy range, though he uses a cholesterol-lowering statin medication. His EKG, chest X-ray, echocardiogram and blood sugar were normal. The 6-foot-3 Trump weighed 236 pounds, and his body mass index, or BMI, of 29.5 put him in the category of being overweight for his height.
Trump takes Crestor for his cholesterol, a low-dose aspirin for heart attack prevention, Propecia to treat male-pattern baldness and antibiotics for rosacea. The doctor's 2016 letter stated that Trump's testosterone level, 441.6, was in the normal range, as were his PSA reading for prostate abnormalities and tests of his liver and thyroid.
Trump was 70 when he took office on Jan. 20, 2017, making him the oldest person ever elected to the nation's highest office.
What about his lifestyle?
He leads a largely sedentary lifestyle compared to his most recent predecessors, and has said he gets most of his exercise playing golf.
The American Heart Association says that the best types of exercise increase the heart rate and make a person breathe heavily, but that activities like golf don't provide as much cardiovascular benefit since they don't require much extra effort. The association suggests players walk the golf course instead of renting a golf cart. Trump drives a cart from hole to hole.
President Barack Obama played basketball, lifted weights, worked out on an elliptical machine or treadmill and played golf. George W. Bush traded running for mountain biking to preserve his knees. He also cleared brush from his central Texas ranch during the 100-degree summers. Bill Clinton was a runner who installed a jogging track at the White House. He also played golf and indulged in Big Macs.
Trump likes fast food, too, along with well-done steaks, chocolate cake and double scoops of vanilla ice cream. He reportedly downs 12 Diet Cokes a day. In their recent book, “Let Trump Be Trump,” former top campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie described the four major food groups on Trump's campaign plane as “McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Diet Coke.”
The advisers also said one Trump meal in Chicago consisted of two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and a chocolate milkshake.
What medical information will the White House release?
How much of Trump's health information the public gets to see is up to the president, but Sanders said she expects the White House to release the same kind of details past presidents have made public. Trump's doctor will release a brief statement on Friday after the exam, and then join her at Tuesday's briefing to offer a more detailed readout and answer questions.
Obama's three medical reports included sections on vital statistics; physical exam by system, such as eyes, pulmonary and gastrointestinal; lab results; his past medical and surgical history; his social history; and medications, among others.
Who will examine Trump?
Trump's official doctor is Ronny L. Jackson, a Navy rear admiral who was the emergency medicine doctor for a shock trauma platoon in Taqaddum, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to his Navy bio. Jackson also provided care for Obama. Jackson became a White House physician in 2006. He has overseen health care for the Cabinet and senior staff, served as physician supervisor for the Camp David presidential retreat and led the White House Medical Unit.
Jackson will examine the president and line up specialists to conduct other parts of the exam. The White House has released no information about the other doctors who will examine Trump.
Has Trump ever been to Walter Reed Hospital?
Trump has visited twice as president to cheer wounded service members. He awarded Purple Hearts during visits in April and December.