Since the 2016 election, critics of Donald Trump have been questioning whether or not he is mentally and psychically fit enough to be president. On Friday, Trump will go in for his first presidential physical exam, and the public will finally gain more insights into his health. But how much will Trump's first physical exam actually tell us?
While Trump isn't required to share his medical information with the public under federal law, the White House's physician to the president, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, will release a public report on the exam. It will take place at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Presidential medical reports are fairly brief and straightforward, usually including an overview of metrics like the patient's weight, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. They also usually document what medications the president is taking, their surgical history, and any idiosyncrasies. For instance, George W. Bush's exam noted he occasionally smoked cigars and drank diet soda. Barack Obama's exam showed that he'd struggled to quit smoking.
There has already been a lot of details published about Trump's physical health, mainly concerning his diet and exercise routine. When traveling, according to two former campaign aides, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, Trump eats "four major food groups: McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza, and Diet Coke." His average order at McDonalds consists of two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish, and a chocolate milkshake.
Trump also apparently said that, aside from golf, he doesn't believe in working out to improve his health. "Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy," Evan Osnos wrote for the New Yorker. He's also said he's not a big sleeper, telling Osnos, “I like three hours, four hours."
During his campaign, the only medical information released about Trump was that he was 6'3 and weighed 236 pounds. Trump's personal physician at the time, Harold N. Bornstein, released vague and hyperbolic statements on his patient's health, like his lab results were "astonishingly excellent." Bornstein later admitted that he rushed the letter, writing it in about five minutes, and said he "probably picked up [Trump's] kind of language and then just interpreted it to my own."
During the president's physical exam, Jackson will look at everything from the president's eyes, lungs, and heart, to his nervous and gastrointestinal systems. What won't be examined, however, is Trump's mental health. A White House spokesperson confirmed on Monday that the exam won't include a psychiatric evaluation. According to CNN, the past five presidents' physical exams don't include reports on any mental health tests, and only briefly mention mental health at all.
Trump's mental health has come under increased scrutiny as of late. There are currently no laws that require the 71-year-old Trump to get any psychiatric exams, though he has a history of Alzheimer's in his family. His father was diagnosed with the disease when he was in his 80s. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force doesn't recommend older patients without any symptoms receive routine screenings for cognitive impairment, CNN reported, citing insufficient evidence.
Exactly what will be disclosed from Trump's medical exam remains unclear, as that's up to the president's discretion. A person familiar with the process of presidential exams told CNN that Trump decides what information to make public from the evaluation. They said in the past, once the exam is completed, the White House Medical Unit prepares a summary to then release to the media, but because under federal law health information is private, Trump has to sign off before any information is released.
Getting the president to sign off isn't always easy, according to previous White House doctors. "You have to remember if there is something wrong with a president that kicks him out of office, everyone who comes with him leaves," Dr. Connie Mariano, who served as White House physician for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, told CNN in 2015. "So everyone wants to keep him in, they want to silence the doctor."
On Friday, as part of the exam report, Jackson will make a general assessment of Trump's health and declare whether or not he is fit to serve as president.