President Joe Biden remains “healthy” and fit enough for the presidency but is showing some signs of ageing, his doctor said on Friday.
Biden – the oldest president in American history – underwent a detailed five-hour medical the day before his 79th birthday, which included a battery of blood, physical, gastrointestinal, dental, vision, and neurological examinations.
In a history-making moment, he also briefly transferred power to Vice President Kamala Harris while he had a colonoscopy, making her the first woman to ever hold the presidential reigns.
Ms Harris, the first woman, first black person, and first person of South Asian descent to be vice president, was – for one hour and 25 minutes – acting president while Mr Biden was under anaesthesia.
Dr Kevin O’Connor, who has been Mr Biden’s primary doctor since 2009, wrote a six-page memo which was released by the White House stating the president “remains a healthy, vigorous, 78-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency”.
However, he acknowledged Biden had been experiencing an “increasing frequency” and severity of throat clearing and coughing during speaking engagements but attributed this to gastrointestinal reflux.
He said the president’s stiffened gait was the result of a new diagnosis of “mild peripheral neuropathy” – nerve damage in the hands and feet – spinal arthritis and compensation for a broken foot sustained a year ago.
Interest in the president’s health has been high since he declared his bid for the White House in 2019 and remains intense as speculation about a 2024 re-election bid grows.
The screening ruled out any signs of stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s.
During the course of the colonoscopy, a “benign-appearing polyp” about three millimetres in size was removed for investigation – but his doctor said Mr Biden has never had colon cancer.
Mr Biden’s reported body mass index classified him as slightly overweight but his cholesterol was under control.
As Mr Biden left the medical centre in the afternoon, he said he was feeling “Great!”
“Great physical and a great House of Representatives vote,” he said, referring to the House passage of his roughly $2 (£1.49) trillion social and environmental agenda.
After arriving back at the White House, he said “nothing’s changed” with his health, joking, “We’re in great shape, and I’m looking forward to celebrating my 58th birthday.”
On Friday afternoon, Mr Biden took part in the annual pardoning of the national Thanksgiving turkey.
President Biden had a brush with death in 1988, requiring surgery to repair two brain aneurysms, weak bulges in arteries, one of them leaking. He has never had a recurrence, his doctor said, citing a test in 2014 that examined his arteries.