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January 2, 2020

Sanders is 'fit and ready to serve as president,' despite heart attack, campaign says

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    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who suffered a heart attack in October 2019 and is the oldest 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, on Monday released three letters from physicians that Sanders' campaign said show he is "fit and ready to serve as president."

    Where the 2020 Democratic candidates stand on health care

    Details on the letters

    The campaign released separate letters from Philip Ades, director of cardiac rehabilitation at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVM); Martin LeWinter, an attending cardiologist at UVM and Sanders' personal cardiologist; and Brian Monahan, the attending physician for Congress.

    LeWinter in his letter wrote that Sanders, age 78, "did suffer modest heart muscle damage" from his heart attack on Oct. 1, 2019, but added that Sanders "has been doing very well since." LeWinter wrote that he is "confident [Sanders] has the mental and physical stamina to fully undertake the rigors of the presidency" if elected. LeWinter noted Sanders' "heart function is stable and well preserved," and his "blood pressure and heart rate are in optimal ranges."

    Ades in his letter wrote that Sanders in December 2019 underwent a treadmill stress test at UVM that showed he "was able to exercise to a level that is approximately 50% higher than other men his age with a similar diagnosis." Andes wrote that Sanders "is more than fit enough to pursue vigorous activities and an occupation that requires stamina and an ability to handle a great deal of stress."

    Monahan in his letter wrote that, at a physical exam on Dec. 19, 2019, Sanders was 6-feet tall and 174 pounds, with a body mass index of 23.6, which is considered to within the normal range. Monahan wrote that Sanders takes several prescription drugs to control his blood pressure, help his thyroid function, manage his cholesterol levels, and prevent blood clots. Monahan noted that Sanders has stopped taking a number of medications that patients typically are required to take following a heart attack, and added that Sanders has "never had symptoms of congestive heart failure." Monahan wrote that Sanders' most recent physical, which included laboratory tests and an electrocardiogram, overall showed that Sanders is "in good health currently."

    A focus on candidates' health

    Sanders' campaign released the letters amid an increased focus on presidential candidates' health, as many of this year's leading candidates are over the age of 69.

    Sanders is one of four candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination who are over the age of 69. Sanders is the oldest Democratic candidate at 78, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden (D) and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D), who are both 77. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is the youngest of the group at age 70, and was the first of the group to release a letter from her physician. In the letter, Warren's physician described her as "a very healthy 70-year-old."

    Bloomberg in December 2019 released a letter from his physician that described Bloomberg as "a 77-year-old man in outstanding health." Biden in December 2019 also released a report from a physician that described Biden as a "healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency."

    Trump, who currently is 73, holds the record as the oldest person to have been elected as a first-term president. Trump in a tweet posted in November 2019 wrote that he had begun "phase one" of his annual medical examination, and "[e]verything [was] very good (great!)." He added that he would complete the exam in 2020 (Naylor, NPR, 12/30/19; Morin, USA Today, 12/30/19; Lewis, Reuters, 12/30/19; Sullivan, Washington Post, 12/30/19).

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