Donald Trump takes office Friday as the oldest incoming president in U.S. history — a burger-gobbling, exercise-averse 70-year-old who can expect to live 15 more years, according to actuarial data.
But Trump apparently has never smoked tobacco. He doesn’t drink alcohol. And as a wealthy American, he has presumably spent much of his life with access to excellent health care.
Experts agree there is no reason why a healthy man in his 70s can’t carry out the responsibilities of president. Yet a person’s “healthspan” — the years he or she is healthy and free of serious disease — is a highly individual mix of genetics, nutrition, lifestyle, social support, access to care and more.
“The key thing is how any person lives with the stress,” said Gordon Lithgow, a professor of geroscience at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California, which studies ways to increase healthspan. “Some people absolutely thrive on the edge of stress.”
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By that measure, Trump will be severely tested.
Given that the 45th president will be exposed to extraordinary stress levels, what else could affect his health and ability to respond to the challenges of office?
“I think the main thing is that the future is a lot less predictable when you’re 70 than when you’re 40 or 50,” said Steve Austad, scientific director of the American Federation for Aging Research. “He could be fine 10 years after his presidency, or he could be in bad shape a year from now.”
Trump has released only limited information about the measures of his health. In an email Tuesday, spokeswoman Hope Hicks said,
But research shows that the chances of acquiring three diseases simultaneously rises tenfold between ages 70 and 80, then tenfold again during the next decade of life, said Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
“I think we all realize that humans age at different rates,” Barzilai said. “Seventy means nothing to me. It can be very young, and it can be very old.”
Trump’s mother, Mary Ann McLeod Trump, was 88 when she died. His father, Fred, died at 93 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for about five years.
In a one-page letter last September, New York gastroenterologist Harold Bornstein, the president-elect’s longtime doctor, said there was no history of “premature” cancer or heart disease in Trump’s family. He said the president-elect is 6-foot-3 and weighs 236 pounds, which qualifies him as borderline obese. Trump has acknowledged a poor diet heavy on fast food.
Bornstein’s letter said Trump takes a statin to lower his cholesterol. Trump also takes a low dose of aspirin, the letter said.
Trump’s blood pressure of 116 over 70 was normal, as was his blood-sugar level, Bornstein wrote. “His liver function and thyroid function tests are all within the normal range,” he said, and “his last colonoscopy was performed on July 10, 2013, which was normal and revealed no polyps.”
Trump’s latest electrocardiogram and chest X-ray, conducted in April 2016, also were “normal,” according to Bornstein.
Perhaps one of Trump’s greatest health advantages is his socioeconomic status. Overwhelming evidence exists that the poor face greater risk of illness and death than the wealthy.
“People who live and work in low socioeconomic circumstances are at increased risk for mortality, morbidity, unhealthy behaviors, reduced access to health care, and inadequate quality of care,” the CDC reported in 2011.
Trump, by contrast,
is “rich and well-educated,” Austad said, “and those things are almost miracle drugs.”