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What we know about the health of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

C. Eugene Emery Jr.
By C. Eugene Emery Jr. August 16, 2016

Is Donald Trump a narcissist? A sociopath? Something worse?

Is Hillary Clinton suffering from epilepsy? The aftermath of a stroke? Dementia?

The Internet is peppered with videos and articles questioning the physical and mental health of the two major candidates.

Trump seemed to touch on the theme during an Aug. 15 rally in Youngstown, Ohio, where he said Clinton "lacks the mental and physical stamina" to take on the nation's adversaries.

Is any of this true?

The physicians of both candidates say their patients are healthy enough to serve as president.

Clinton, 68, released a letter from her doctor in July 2015 saying she is healthy, has seasonal allergies and an underactive thyroid gland, a common condition, especially among people over 60.

She experienced a concussion and blood clot to the brain in December 2012, after hitting her head because she fainted due to a stomach virus. The double vision she experienced as a result cleared up within two months. By 2013, testing showed that the clot had completely dissolved. She is still taking anticoagulation medicine as a precaution, along with thyroid and allergy medicine, and vitamin B12.

She shows no signs of heart disease or cancer. The report also lists a normal blood pressure and heart rate, along with her cholesterol levels. "She is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as president of the United States," wrote Dr. Lisa Bardack, an internist and chairwoman of the Department of Medicine at the 500-doctor CareMount Medical group practice in New York.

The health report from Trump's doctor, dated Dec. 4, 2015, is less detailed and is a bit unusual because it sounds like parts could have been dictated by Trump himself. But it shows that he is also in good health.

It says Trump's blood pressure and most recent laboratory results "were astonishingly excellent" and his physical examination "showed only positive results," the latter phrase being a bit unusual because, in conventional medical parlance, a positive result usually indicates a problem. But that's clearly not the case here.

Trump is taking a statin drug, which is typically given to prevent heart disease (his cholesterol values are not listed), and a baby aspirin each day (another heart-healthy precaution standard for a 70-year-old man).

The letter says his heart, lungs and circulatory system are excellent, his strength and stamina "are extraordinary," and he has never had any form of cancer. His doctor, Harold Bornstein, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says Trump has never smoked or used alcohol.

"If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency," Dr. Bornstein concludes. It seems unlikely the doctor was able to get medical records of all previous presidents to make that comparison using actual evidence.

If elected, Trump (born June 14, 1946) would be the oldest person to assume the presidency — still 70 on Inauguration Day. Clinton (born Oct. 26, 1947) would be 69 in January and, if elected, the second-oldest person to assume the presidency. Ronald Reagan is the current record holder. He was just 16 days shy of his 70th birthday when he was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.

And what about the claims on the Internet?

One letter purporting to be from Dr. Bardack, Clinton's doctor, and dated Feb. 5, 2014, says Clinton suffers from seizures and dementia that both are getting worse.

Dr. Bardack released a statement Aug. 16, 2016, saying the document is a fraud.

They "were not written by me and are not based on any medical facts," Dr. Bardack wrote. "To reiterate what I said in my previous statement, Secretary Clinton is in excellent health and fit to serve as President of the United States."

Other memes trying to suggest that Clinton is unfit show her reacting in childlike awe as the balloons were dropped after her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention and her make-believe astonishment on June 10 when a group of reporters standing on her right suddenly hit her with a question.

In the latter case, conspiracy theorists sometimes cut out the sound and don't show the complete video in an effort to accentuate the sense that Clinton's behavior was bizarre.

Sean Hannity has picked up on the speculation, using several segments of his Fox News program to try to raise questions about Clinton's health. He depicted the June 10 episode as "seizuresque" and "violent out of control movements."

As Kurt Eichenwald, who has epilepsy, wrote Aug. 15, 2016, in Newsweek, "People do not smile during a seizure while standing upright and then immediately launch into a coherent sentence."

And Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press, one of the reporters featured prominently in the video, said Clinton may have been eager to avoid the shouted questions "or maybe just taken aback by our volume." Talking about some Trump supporters, she said, "where I saw evasiveness, they see seizures."

On the Republican side, liberal commentator Keith Olbermann released a 21-minute video on July 21, 2016, asking, "Can Donald Trump Pass A Sanity Test?" Some commentators have tried to pin a variety of labels onto Trump based on his public statements and videos.

As the New York Times noted on Aug. 15, 2016, that can be risky, if not downright unfair.

Consider the 1,189 professionals who called the Republican candidate unfit for office, labeling him paranoid or having a godlike self-image.

That candidate wasn't Trump.

It was Barry Goldwater, who ran a failed campaign against Lyndon Johnson and also had his mental capacity questioned.

Since 1973, the American Psychiatric Association has had its Goldwater Rule, which says, "It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion (on a public figure) unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement."

Concern over the urge to slap a label onto Trump promoted APA President Dr. Maria Oquendo to release a statement reminding psychiatrists why breaking the rule is "unethical and irresponsible."

A "diagnosis" can be politically motivated. Or just plain wrong.

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What we know about the health of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton