US president Donald Trump is “fit for duty” and should remain so through his presidency, according to presidential physician rear admiral Ronny Jackson, who examined the president last week amid criticism that the 71-year-old commander-in-chief may be unfit for office.
Dr Jackson said a screening of Mr Trump's cognitive function – to look for signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease – was normal. Dr Jackson said he did not think such an exam was necessary but conducted it at Mr Trump's request.
"I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability and neurological function," Dr Jackson told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
He has recommended the president eat less fat and carbohydrates and that he exercise regularly. Dr Jackson said he increased Trump's dose of a medicine to control cholesterol, AstraZeneca PLC's Crestor, and he said Trump takes daily aspirin, a multivitamin and hair-loss drug Propecia.
The president weighed 108kg and measured 1.90m tall at the exam, Dr Jackson said. That indicates he is borderline obese, with a body mass index of 29.9, just below the level of 30 that qualifies as obese according to guidelines used by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Questions about Mr Trump's fitness for office flared last week after a new book – Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff – said that almost all of his top staff and advisers believe he is mentally unwell.
Mr Trump responded to the criticism by calling himself a “very stable genius” on Twitter and then allowing cameras to film him negotiating immigration legislation with senators at the White House for 55 minutes last week.
Even some Republicans have recently raised concerns. Senator Bob Corker told reporters at the Capitol in October that he questioned Mr Trump’s “leadership, and just his stability, and the lack of desire to be competent on issues and understand”.
Dr Jackson said the cognitive screen he administered, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, isn’t designed as a psychiatric assessment. The test instructions describe it as a rapid screening instrument to check for mild cognitive dysfunction that takes about 10 minutes to complete.
The White House announced on December 28 that Mr Trump would undergo a physical. Earlier in the month, he appeared to slur his words during a speech recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at the time that the president was simply thirsty, calling questions about his health “ridiculous.”
Under federal medical privacy laws, Jackson cannot release any information about Mr Trump’s health without his permission. While presidents aren’t required to have a physical or release the results, it has become standard practice. In a Gallup poll during the 2016 general election, 51 per cent of Americans said the president should release all relevant medical information, an increase from 2004 when 38 per cent held that view.
Mr Trump has made no attempt to hide his weakness for unhealthy foods, posting a photo of himself aboard his campaign plane with a bucket of fried chicken, bragging about the chocolate cake at his Mar-a-Lago resort and drinking Diet Coke around the West Wing. The president would sometimes order two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and a chocolate milkshake for dinner, according to a recent book by campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.
Dr Jackson has served as the presidential physician since 2013 and performed Obama’s last physical where he said Obama’s health was "excellent" and that "all clinical data indicates that the president is currently health and that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency." Dr Jackson has worked in the White House since 2006 where he previously treated senior staff and cabinet members.
When asked whether the president has a daily exercise regiment, Dr Jackson said no. "We can build on that very easily," he said.