2013-10-15 14:58:38 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 15, 2013): It has now belatedly been revealed that former President George W. Bush [#43] was virtually at death's door in August 2013 with a 95% blockage in a coronary artery.
It presented a grave risk of sudden death which probably would not have been suspected in a very physically fit man with no symptoms, nor detected by the standard resting EKG many people undergo as part of a routine annual physical.
Instead, it was only detected because Bush underwent a yearly much more comprehensive executive physical which included a stress test which measures changes in the heart as the patient walks to exhaustion on a treadmill which gets steeper by the minute.
This startling diagnosis is a powerful reminder of the life-saving potential of such comprehensive medical exams, even for people who appear healthy and physically active, and who have access to excellent medical monitoring and care, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf, whose own life may have been saved when he underwent the same exams by the same doctor.
Bush, only 67, was among our most physically fit presidents, and engaged in regular active exercise from early morning
workouts to bike rides, reportedly at least five days a week. He even hosted an annual 100-kilometer mountain bike ride. Also, as a former president, and as a man of considerable means, he obviously had access to medical care which surpasses that of most Americans.
Yet, despite all this, it appears that his life-threatening arterial blockage was not discovered until he underwent his annual comprehensive medical examination at the Cooper Clinic in his home state of Texas.
The medical clinic, founded by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the "Father or Aerobics," pioneered the concept of providing much more comprehensive and probing annual medical exams than most practitioners can provide in their own offices. He claims that, despite their high cost, they are nevertheless cost effective – which is why so many companies fund them for their most vital executives.
A key element of the Cooper physical is a cardiac stress test during which the patient walks on a treadmill as the incline is slowly increased until further performance is impossible. The purpose of that test is to observe the heart under considerable exercise stress to detect potential problems which probably would not be picked up by a conventional office electrocardiogram, or produce symptoms even if the patient participates in taxing sports like mountain bike riding. During his 2006 executive physical, the then-President Bush scored in the “superior” fitness category for men his age (greater than ninety-ninth percentile for 60-64 year-old men).
But this time it appears that the stress induced by the treadmill triggered the concern about the blocked artery which led to the sudden stenting operation, says Banzhaf, who has undergone the same tests as Bush – including using the same treadmill – for many years. Indeed, they both share the same doctor at the Cooper Clinic: Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper himself.
Two years ago my annual executive physical found a life-threatening condition which was caught early enough that it has now been completely resolved, says Banzhaf. He suspects that the same may also be true for the country's 43rd president since, as it is often put, the first symptom of a blocked artery is often sudden death.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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