WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama hasn't kicked the smoking habit, takes anti-inflammatory medication to relieve chronic tendinitis in his left knee and should eat better to lower his cholesterol, his team of doctors concluded Sunday after the 48-year-old's first medical checkup as commander in chief.
The hoops-happy chief executive, who has endured an exhausting White House run and yearlong battles with congressional Republicans, was otherwise declared in excellent health and fit for duty.
The White House physician, Navy Capt. Jeffrey Kuhlman, said Obama should stick with "smoking cessation efforts," the use of nicotine gum, and come back in August 2011 after he turns 50.
Obama cholesterol levels have crept up to borderline high and he should alter his diet accordingly, according to a report the White House released after the 90-minute examination at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. While at the facility, he visited 12 military service members receiving treatment and rehabilitation for injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The president is the picture of health, eats modest portions and exercises regularly. He is an avid basketball player and golfer. The slightly elevated cholesterol levels, tendinitis in his left knee and occasional smoking were the only negatives noted.
Obama said at a June news conference that he still had an occasional cigarette. It was his first public acknowledgment that he hadn't kicked the habit. He chews nicotine gum to avoid regular smoking, and his doctor said that should continue.
Kuhlman also said the president should modify his diet to bring his LDL, or bad cholesterol, below 130. At the time of his last exam, Obama's total cholesterol was 173, while his LDL was 96 and HDL, or good cholesterol, was 68.
This time, total cholesterol was up to 209, with HDL down slightly at 62. LDL was up to 138. Borderline high cholesterol starts at 200, with LDL considered in the same category at 130.
Kuhlman said Obama last checkup was in July 2008 when he was seen by the attending physician to Congress when Obama was an Illinois senator. During the 2008 White House race, his campaign released a statement from his longtime Chicago doctor saying Obama was in excellent health when examined January 2007.
Sunday's report said Obama is 6-foot-1 and weighs 180 pounds in shoes and exercise clothing. His pulse rate is 56, which is very good, as is his blood pressure — 105 over 62. The doctor said Obama's vision was 20/20 in both eyes for both distance and near vision.
The president was checked for and found free of colon cancer with a virtual colonoscopy, a scan that avoids the more invasive visual inspection with a camera device that is passed into the large intestine.
The tendinitis that Obama suffers in his left leg could be the result of his regular basketball playing.
Kuhlman said that there was mild popping and grinding in Obama's left knee and "some weakness" in his left hip, also possibly a result of rigorous and extended periods on the basketball court.
The doctor said Obama should:
_Have another exam for colon cancer in five years
_Continue smoking cessation efforts, a daily exercise program, a healthy diet, moderation in alcohol intake, periodic dental care, and remain up to date with recommended immunizations.
_Keep up a modified exercise regimen to strengthen his legs to ward off more difficulties with his knee.
_Modify his diet to lower his LDL cholesterol below 130.