WH doctor: Trump requested cognitive exam

Dr. Ronny Jackson, who examined President Trump, says he did not think the President needed a cognitive exam but gave him one at Trump's request.

Posted: Jan 17, 2018 1:25 PM
Updated: Jan 17, 2018 1:25 PM

President Donald Trump, hoping to rebut questions about his mental fitness, requested the White House physician perform a cognitive exam during his yearly exam last week.

The President, 71, received a perfect score, the doctor said Tuesday during an extraordinary hour-long questioning session at the White House. And despite high cholesterol and borderline obesity, he declared Trump is in "excellent" health.

"I've got to know him pretty well. And I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or his, you know, his neurological function," Dr. Ronny Jackson told reporters from the briefing room. He said he hadn't initially planned to administer the screening for neurological impairments, but did so at Trump's asking.

"I've found no reason whatsoever to think the President has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes," Jackson said later.

The assessment was one in a series of rosy readings that Jackson offered about Trump's health after examining him for more than four hours last week. In a remarkable show of transparency for an administration known for its secret-keeping, Jackson stood at the White House podium for an hour Tuesday answering questions about the President's health.

He said the performance had been requested by Trump himself, who had told him to answer every query about the exam in an attempt to put to rest questions about the President's physical and mental fitness.

Trump "was watching and liked it," an official said after the briefing.

Despite what he said were concerns about Trump's weight, diet and exercise levels, Jackson declared the President in "excellent" health, which he predicted would hold up for the remainder of his term.

Trump weighs 239 pounds, Jackson said, three pounds more than he weighed in 2016. Standing at 6 feet, 3 inches, Trump is just below the "obese" range on the body mass index.

Since 2016, when Trump last released medical information, his overall cholesterol levels have increased from 169 to 223. The so-called "bad cholesterol" is now at 143, up from 94 during his last exam. And his blood pressure, at 122 over 74, is considered elevated.

"If you look at the areas where Dr. Jackson focused, on heart disease, which is understandable given the President's age, basically all of the numbers, the objective numbers that we could compare this year to last year, have become a little worse," said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent. "He is gone in the wrong direction, and we're seeing now the impact in these particular tests of his lifestyle."

Jackson said Trump's heart exams, which included a stress test and an echocardiogram, were normal. But pressed by Gupta about calcium levels in Trump's arteries, Jackson conceded that those, too, were elevated.

Jackson said that during the exam he and Trump discussed his diet, setting a goal of losing 10-15 pounds. The gym facilities in the White House residence will be renovated to Trump's specifications, Jackson said, and first lady Melania Trump will be enlisted to help him stick to the new regimen.

A nutritionist has been brought into the White House kitchens to consult with the chefs there on ways to limit Trump's intake of calories, including by cutting fats and carbohydrates. And Jackson has upped Trump's dosage of Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering statin.

"He's more enthusiastic about the diet part than the exercise part, but we're going to do both," Jackson said.

The concerns over his weight aside, Jackson said Trump was in excellent health, which he ascribed to good genetics and a lifelong avoidance of tobacco and alcohol.

"It is called genetics," Jackson said when asked how a borderline obese man with on cholesterol-lowering medication could be considered in excellent health. "I don't know. Some people have great genes."

The doctor told reporters Trump scored 30 out of 30 on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which according to its website is a "cognitive screening test designed to assist Health Professionals in the detection of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease."

Jackson said such testing wasn't originally in the plan for the physical, and isn't recommended by doctors for patients of Trump's age. Trump did not undergo any screening for emotional or psychiatric disorders.

Ahead of the exam, the White House had said tests for mental acuity would not be included. The question arose after a week of speculation about the President's mental fitness for office, spurred by the publication of a damaging book that suggested Trump's own aides worry about his stability. Later, Trump attempted to clarify matters by tweeting he was a "very stable genius."

"The President is very sharp, very articulate when he speaks to me," Jackson said. As the President's physician, Jackson travels with Trump on nearly all of his trips and works in close proximity to Trump on a daily basis.

Jackson said Trump takes Crestor, for cholesterol; a low dose of aspirin to prevent heart attacks; antibiotics to treat skin rosacea; and Propecia for baldness.

The President himself decided what to make public from his exam, in accordance with medical privacy rules. Jackson said Tuesday that there were no readings he was withholding.

That type of transparency is a shift for Trump, who has been unwilling to disclose information that candidates and presidents typically reveal, such as his tax returns.

Jackson performed the yearly physical Friday at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

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