Obama is in good health, doctor says

Personal physician notes candidate's bid to stop smoking

May 30, 2008|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Sun Reporter

Sen. Barack Obama's personal doctor said yesterday that the Democratic presidential candidate is in excellent health but is struggling, with some success, to quit smoking.

Dr. David L. Scheiner, Obama's primary care physician since 1987, said his patient has desirable blood pressure and cholesterol, jogs regularly and is "lean and muscular with no excess body fat."

One worry: Obama, 46, has a history of "intermittent cigarette smoking," said Scheiner, adding that the Illinois senator has quit several times and is currently using Nicorette gum "with success."

Referring to Obama's last checkup in January 2007, Scheiner said that "a complete review of systems was unremarkable." Blood pressure was 90/60, resting pulse 60 beats a minute and total cholesterol 173 - all within healthy ranges.

"In short, his examination showed him to be in excellent health," Scheiner said in a one-page letter released by the Obama campaign yesterday. "Senator Barack Obama is in overall good physical and mental health needed to maintain the resiliency required in the Office of President."

Scheiner, a general internist licensed to practice in Illinois, is a staff physician at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Rush University Medical Center, also in Chicago.

Just a week ago, Sen. John McCain, the apparent Republican nominee, released 1,200 pages of medical records covering 2000 through a visit to his dermatologist three weeks ago.

They revealed that McCain had four melanoma growths over the years, including an aggressive lesion that required extensive surgery to his face.

But the Arizona senator, 71, has gone eight years without a recurrence of cancer. The records showed that his cardiovascular health is good, though he takes medication for elevated cholesterol.

Democrat Hillary Clinton has not released her health records.

Obama's family history includes his mother's death from ovarian cancer and his maternal grandfather's from prostate cancer. But Dr. Richard Boehler, chief medical officer of St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, said neither has any relevance to Obama's long-term health.

A mother with ovarian cancer might pass along an increased cancer risk to her daughter but not to a son, Boehler said.

The risk of prostate cancer rises significantly for a man whose brother or father had the disease. But the risk is much less when only a second-degree relative, such as a grandfather, had the disease.

"The big thing for him is obviously the smoking," said Boehler, formerly an instructor at Harvard Medical School. "I can't think very highly of that, but when you look at life expectancy, it's not going to factor into this campaign."

"For serious smokers, you know, seven to 10 years come off their life expectancy compared to age-matched peers," Boehler said. But Obama's smoking history should not pose a risk of death over the next eight years.

As for the candidate's cardiovascular health, Boehler said he has an enviable combination of low LDL, the so-called "bad cholesterol," and high HDL, the so-called "good cholesterol."

His blood pressure is also excellent, well below the 120/80 recognized as a benchmark in the United States.

jonathan.bor@baltsun.com

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