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Ail to the chief.

ALL IN ALL, AMERICA'S PRESIDENTS have been a sickly lot. Yet John Sotos, a California cardiologist who has spent more than a decade investigating their infirmities, from ague to Alzheimer's, has found that a long medical history isn't necessarily a barrier to making history. "The three best presidents we've had--Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt--were all visited by serious illness," he says. "I wonder if there is something in that experience which humbles a man, and raises his decision-making to a higher plane." A few notable presidential afflictions, some posthumously diagnosed by Sotos on his site,

George Washington

Ailment: Sterility

The father of the country never fathered any children with his wife, Martha, who had four kids from a previous marriage. Upside: no hereditary succession!

Thomas Jefferson

Ailment: Buttock boils

Toward the end of his life, Jefferson's infected "seat" was treated with sulfur and mercury, which may have contributed to his final decline.

Andrew Jackson

Ailment: Slobbering

As a boy, Old Hickory was known to drool--and would fight anyone who called him a "slobber mouth."

Abraham Lincoln

Ailment: Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2B Sotos has written an entire book positing that had Lincoln not been assassinated, he would have soon died from thyroid or adrenal cancer caused by this rare genetic disorder.

William Taft

Ailment: Sleep apnea

The heaviest president rarely got a full night's sleep and often dozed off in public.

Calvin Coolidge

Aliment: Excessive sleep Silent Cal was known to sleep 11 hours a day.

John F. Kennedy

Ailment: Autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type II

This could explain why JFK's health was, in Sotos' professional opinion, "a mess." Kennedy also had chronic back problems; one theory holds that his back brace played a role in his death by preventing him from slumping after being hit by the first bullet in Dallas.

Ronald Reagan

Ailment: Myopia

The Gipper would give speeches wearing one contact lens so he could focus on the audience with one eye.

George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush

Ailment: Syncope (i.e., fainting)

Both Bushes lost consciousness while in office: the younger while nearly choking on a pretzel, the elder after vomiting on the Japanese prime minister.


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Title Annotation:OUTFRONT; ailments of past American Presidents
Author:Gilson, Dave
Publication:Mother Jones
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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