The health of US Presidents is a well-kept secret, especially while they’re in office. The public is on a need-to-know basis, and, generally speaking, the government doesn’t think the public needs to know at all – especially when it comes to presidents’ illnesses. From George Washington to Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama, presidents have suffered from various ailments before, during, and after holding their positions. Considering how unwell some of these guys were, it’s amazing they accomplished anything at all during their first 100 days in office.
Some presidents were pretty healthy from a young age; others were sickly during their whole lives, and others were plagued with maladies on and off – no actual instances of plague, though, luckily. However, some of these presidential ailments might just surprise you.
The Short List: Malaria, diphtheria, pneumonia, dysentery, tonsillitis, smallpox, carbuncles, far-sightedness, hearing loss, throat infection, depression, loss of teeth
In addition to his famously problematic oral health, George Washington suffered from several illnesses throughout his life. At the age of 17, he contracted malaria and continued to suffer bouts of it until his death. He was afflicted with diphtheria, pneumonia, dysentery, and tonsillitis, mostly when he was in the military. Washington was also in close proximity to tuberculosis while in Barbados at the age of 19, and this may account for his purported sterility. Washington suffered carbuncles, far-sightedness, and was losing his hearing during the late 1780s. It’s unclear exactly what Washington died from, but speculation is that he had a bacterial infection of his epiglottis that led to suffocation. He may have also had pneumonia.
Age: Dec. at 67 (1732-1799)
Birthplace: Virginia, United States of America
The Short List: Respiratory infections, smallpox, indigestion, dyspepsia, depression, somatization, substance abuse, rheumatism
While small in stature, John Adams was in relatively good health as a boy. However, he suffered from a severe respiratory infection during his first year at Harvard, and, upon receiving the smallpox vaccine in 1764, he came down with symptoms of the disease. He complained of stomach upset, acid reflux, and depression often, and, during his presidency, he experienced somatization – AKA physical symptoms associated with psychological issues – during periods of extreme stress. During one particular incident, he was comatose for five days. He also developed a tremor, which may have been stress related too. Adams enjoyed alcohol, chewing tobacco, and smoking. He lost his hair and his teeth, and the lack of the latter caused a mild speech impediment. He had rheumatism late in life, and, to the best of any estimation, he died of old age (at 90!) in 1826.
Age: Dec. at 91 (1735-1826)
Birthplace: Braintree, Massachusetts, United States of America
The Short List: Dysentery, depression, back injury, broken wrists, enlarged prostate, rheumatism, skin sores, hearing loss, indigestion, psychological condition
Thomas Jefferson experienced severe headaches at various points during his life, some of which lasted for weeks at a time. He suffered from dysentery, depression, and a debilitating back injury during his pre-presidential days, as well as a severe wrist injury that never fully healed. While president, Jefferson developed a severe jaw infection, but he always claimed that he never lost any of his teeth to age. Late in life, he may have had an enlarged prostate. He was rheumatic, had boils, wore glasses, lost much of his hearing, and once suffered from what was called life-threatening constipation. His death, however, was mostly likely the result of diarrhea. Due to his intellect and eccentricities, there has been speculation that he suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome or some other form of autism.
Age: Dec. at 83 (1743-1826)
Birthplace: Shadwell, Virginia, United States of America
The Short List: Speech impediment, arthritis, inflamed gallbladder, epilepsy, frostbite
Considered ‘frail’ throughout his life, James Madison avoided contracting any serious illnesses simply by avoiding travel to locations where disease was common. During his 30s, Madison complained of a speech impediment that prevented him from delivering public addresses. He experienced frostbite on his nose during the 1790s, and, once he reached middle age, he was afflicted with arthritis and an inflammation of his gallbladder. Madison may have had a form of epilepsy, as sources indicate that he suffered from attacks that resembled seizures. There is some speculation that these were psychologically caused. As he aged, Madison’s skin took on a yellow hue; he became puffy around his eyes; he lost his hearing and his sight; and he became feeble-minded before dying of old age.
Age: Dec. at 85 (1751-1836)
Birthplace: Port Conway, Virginia, United States of America
The Short List: Bullet wound, malaria, fever, seizure, exhaustion, wrist injury, lung disease
In contrast to tiny little James Madison, James Monroe was over six feet tall and of a strong build. He was shot in the shoulder at the Battle of Trenton in 1776 and carried the bullet in his body for the rest of his life. He contracted malaria in 1785 and suffered recurrent attacks of the disease. Prior to becoming president, he experienced a long, unknown illness and while in office, was bedridden with a fever and later suffered a seizure in 1825. He was exhausted and weak by the time he left office. Toward the end of his life, he had a serious wrist injury and struggled with a chronic lung disease, possibly tuberculosis, from 1830 until his death in 1831.
Age: Dec. at 73 (1758-1831)
Birthplace: Monroe Hall, Virginia, United States of America
John Quincy Adams
Highlights: Baldness and strokes
The product of a marriage of very close bloodlines (his mother and father were third cousins) John Quincy Adams was an incredibly healthy man. He was bald, like his father, and he liked to swim and stay active, which may have contributed to his general wellbeing. Adams suffered from his first stroke in 1846 but recovered fully from the resulting paralysis before his second stroke in 1848. He died two days later.
Age: Dec. at 81 (1767-1848)
Birthplace: Braintree, Massachusetts, United States of America
The Short List: Flesh wounds, bullet wounds, malaria, dysentery, headaches, dropsy
Andrew Jackson was a short-tempered boy prone to drooling and slobbering when he got upset. During the Revolutionary War, Jackson suffered from numerous injuries, including gashes and wounds on his head, hands, and fingers, as well as depression resulting from his brothers’ and mother’s deaths. He was taken captive by the British in 1781 and, soon after release, he came down with smallpox. He was shot in the chest during a duel in 1806, and the wound bothered him for his entire life. He was shot again in a gunfight in 1813, this time in the left shoulder. Numerous doctors wanted to amputate his arm, but he refused. The bullet wasn’t removed until 1832 during his presidency. After the bullet was removed, Jackson’s health improved, perhaps because the lead had been poisoning him for almost 20 years. Jackson contracted either or both malaria and dysentery during his campaigns in Florida from 1818-1821 and experienced abdominal pain for the rest of his life. He experienced headaches from tobacco use, and, based on his symptoms, he was thought to have died of heart failure after experiencing shortness of breath and fluid retention – also known as dropsy – in 1845. However, a 1999 re-examination of his corpse revealed his cause of death to be lead poisoning.
Age: Dec. at 78 (1767-1845)
Martin Van Buren
The Short List: Obesity, gout, dyspepsia, respiratory infections, asthma, circulatory disease
Martin Van Buren was an obese man, but he wore a corset so he hid it well. He was able to drink large quantities of whiskey without showing drunkenness, which, combined with his diet and predilection to excess, may have contributed to his serious gout and dyspepsia. Van Buren claimed to suffer colds and the flu often, but he may have wanted to get out of Senate duties. There is no evidence that Van Buren smoked or used tobacco, but he began to suffer from asthma in 1860. He showed signs of circulatory failure, as well, and died in 1862.
Age: Dec. at 80 (1782-1862)
Birthplace: Kinderhook, New York, United States of America
William Henry Harrison
The Short List: Ulcer, malnutrition, respiratory infection, pneumonia
William Henry Harrison suffered from a stomach ailment of some kind, perhaps an ulcer, and limited his diet to certain foods to reduce discomfort. This may have led to malnutrition given his gaunt appearance. The President was quick to contract a cold after his inaugural address, which many blamed on the wet and cold conditions in March of 1841. However, contemporary physicians believe this was likely the result of drinking contaminated water. He died of pneumonia a few weeks later.
Age: Dec. at 68 (1773-1841)
Birthplace: Virginia, United States of America
The Short List: Partial paralysis, dysentery, respiratory infections, arthritis, kidney pain, stroke
John Tyler, a slight man, suffered from partial paralysis at the age of 30, which may have been caused by a tick bite or some sort of food-borne bacteria. Tyler experienced dysentery, frequent colds, kidney pain, arthritis, and general aches during his post-presidency years. He also fathered at least 15 children. He was dizzy, nauseous, and short of breath before suffering what is believed to have been a stroke in 1862.
Age: Dec. at 72 (1790-1862)
Birthplace: Virginia, United States of America
James K. Polk
The Short List: Urinary tract stones, sore hands, cholera
James K. Polk suffered from urinary stones as a child and eventually had them removed due to the pain. This may have led to sterility, as he never fathered any children. As an adult, he was pretty healthy. By all accounts, his biggest complaint was damage to his hand from shaking so many hands. He died of cholera soon after leaving office in 1849.
Age: Dec. at 54 (1795-1849)
Birthplace: Pineville, North Carolina, United States of America
The Short List: Dysentery, malaria, yellow fever, typhoid/cholera morbus
After recovering from yellow fever at the age of 23, Zachary Taylor returned to military service and soon came down with a case of dysentery. He later suffered at least three bouts of malaria, which seemed to impact his overall health. He had different fevers, as well, and, in 1849, he contracted cholera while on his presidential tour. He recovered and most likely fell victim to typhoid or cholera morbus in 1850. While there are numerous conspiracies as to how Taylor died – food poisoning and regular poisoning, for example – he famously ate a bowl of cherries and milk on the 4th of July, began to experience digestive discomfort, and only lived for five more days.
Age: Dec. at 66 (1784-1850)
Birthplace: Barboursville, Virginia, USA
The Short List: Strokes
Millard Fillmore is said to have been one of the US’s healthiest presidents, with no known medical problems until he suffered two strokes in 1874. The second one resulted in his death. He didn’t drink or smoke, and he was conscious about maintaining his wellbeing.
Age: Dec. at 74 (1800-1874)
Birthplace: Summerhill, New York, United States of America
The Short List: Alcoholism, tuberculosis, coughing, depression, war injury, cirrhosis of the liver
Franklin Pierce was a rabble-rousing youth who was injured during the Mexican-American War. He also experienced fainting episodes. He and his wife suffered from tuberculosis and coughing fits, and, after their son died in a train accident, depression set in. Pierce himself also experienced minor injuries during the accident. Pierce was an alcoholic whose drinking ebbed and flowed. Toward the end of his life, Pierce’s health declined, and he began drinking again. He died of cirrhosis of the liver and perhaps stomach inflammation in 1869.
Age: Dec. at 65 (1804-1869)
Birthplace: Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States of America
The Short List: Alcoholism, eye defect, gout, dysentery, respiratory illness
James Buchanan’s eye twitch was said to match the man’s twitchy personality. Buchanan experienced dysentery at least twice while living in Washington, DC. He liked to take walks each morning, and he enjoyed drink, food, and excess – he eventually developed gout as a result of the latter. At the age of 77, he got a cold that turned to respiratory failure. The only bachelor president, there was and continues to be speculation about Buchanan’s sexuality.
Age: Dec. at 77 (1791-1868)
Birthplace: Cove Gap, Pennsylvania, United States of America
The Short List: Concussion, hand wound, head injuries, frostbite, malaria, syphilis, Marfan Syndrom, scarlet fever, depression, constipation, food poisoning, smallpox, cancer, MEN2B syndrome, bullet wound
There are several books about the health of Abraham Lincoln, but much of what has been written is contradictory. Based on the historical records, Lincoln had concussions and head injuries as a boy, cut off part of his own thumb with an axe, got frostbite on his feet, and had malaria in 1830 and 1835. Lincoln’s law partner wrote that Lincoln had syphilis in 1835 and described the future President as tall, having long limbs, a long face, and a sunken chest, which have been attributed to Lincoln’s possible Marfan Syndrome. Lincoln suffered a broken jaw, scarlet fever, had flat feet, experienced melancholy, was physically abused by his wife Mary, and experienced bouts of constipation.
While he was president, Lincoln had food poisoning in 1861, became severely depressed after his son died in 1862, may have had smallpox in 1863, and showed signs of cancer as early as 1860. His asymmetrical facial features as well as many of his other symptoms may have been caused by MEN2B (multiple endocrine neuroplasia type 2B) syndrome. Lincoln had a receding hairline and became far-sighted as he aged. He was shot in the head on April 14, 1865. The bullet entered behind his left ear and lodged behind his right eye, and he died the next day.
Age: Dec. at 56 (1809-1865)
Birthplace: Hodgenville, Kentucky, United States of America
The Short List: Typhoid fever and stroke
Andrew Johnson was sick with typhoid fever a few months prior to Lincoln’s second inauguration (he was Lincoln’s vice-president) and remained ill on the day of the ceremony. As a suggestion, he took several shots of whiskey to feel better but ended up making a drunken scene. This led to his reputation as a drinker, although he was not. As president, Johnson experienced chronic kidney stones and died of a stroke in 1875.
Age: Dec. at 67 (1808-1875)
Birthplace: Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Ulysses S. Grant
The Short List: Substance abuse and cancer
Ulysses S. Grant smoked cigars throughout his life – as many as 12 or even 20 a day –which contributed to the throat cancer that later killed him. He also struggled with alcohol abuse. In 1854, he was asked to leave the military due to his excessive drinking. He also became addicted to cocaine, as it was used to dull the pain in his throat.
Age: Dec. at 63 (1822-1885)
Birthplace: Point Pleasant, Ohio, United States of America
Rutherford B. Hayes
The Short List: Bullet wounds, war injuries, heart attack
Rutherford B. Hayes was described as a “delicate” child and experienced numerous injuries during the Civil War, including a wounded knee and ankle, as well as three separate bullet wounds. On the occasion of the last wound, it was rumored that he had died. As president, Hayes banned alcohol and all other substances from the White House. He is only known to have suffered from one bout of poison ivy while in office. Hayes died of a heart attack in 1893.
Age: Dec. at 71 (1822-1893)
Birthplace: Delaware, Ohio, United States of America
James A. Garfield
The Short List: Malaria-like illness, colds, anal fissure, jaundice, bullet wounds, abscess, pneumonia, chest pains
While working on a canal boat at age 14, James A. Garfield experienced what was then called ‘ague’ – a malaria-like illness that included fever, chills, and fatigue. Garfield had several colds, suffered from indigestion, and was bedridden with an anal fissure in 1875. During the Civil War, Garfield was jaundiced and forced to return home to recover. In July 1881, Garfield was shot twice. The bullet entered his back, shattered a rib, and became lodged in his abdomen, and, despite the dirty-handed fingers of doctors that attempted to remove it, it remained in his body until his death in October of the same year. Over that four-month period, Garfield experienced symptoms of a likely infection, including fever, weakness, and an abscess. He later came down with pneumonia and had chest pains before dying in his sleep.
Age: Dec. at 50 (1831-1881)
Birthplace: Moreland Hills, Ohio, United States of America
Chester A. Arthur
The Short List: Obesity, Bright’s Disease, kidney failure, malaria, heart disease, hypertension
Trim in his youth, Chester A. Arthur was a glutton who enjoyed food and drink and was obese as a result. A contributing factor to what his contemporaries described as “laziness” may have been Bright’s Disease, also known as nephritis, which affected kidney cell development. His fatigue, irritability, and illness began in 1882, and, as a result, he developed high blood pressure, swelling, and ultimately kidney failure. He suffered from malaria, indigestion, and heart disease in 1883, which caused his health to decline further. Arthur died of kidney failure and a cerebral hemorrhage in 1886, both of which were associated with Bright’s Disease.
Age: Dec. at 57 (1829-1886)
Birthplace: Fairfield, Vermont, United States of America
The Short List: Leg injury, obesity, substance abuse, typhoid, gout, cancer, nephritis, sleep apnea, heart disease, depression, hearing loss
Grover Cleveland, the only man to serve two non-consecutive terms, was described as an ornery boy who once severely cut his leg while shimmying down a drainpipe. He was a large child and an obese man who suffered from typhoid at the age of 18. Prior to his term as president, he was involved in a sexual scandal that revolved around an illegitimate child. He drank, smoked cigars, and, during his second term as president, developed cancer of the jaw. He had two secret surgeries to remove the tumor, and, afterwards, he experienced hearing loss. He also had nephritis, sleep apnea, and gout. After his terms as president, Cleveland’s daughter fell ill with diphtheria and died in 1904, which resulted in Cleveland’s psychological decline. His overall health declined, as well, and he died of a heart attack in 1908.
Age: Dec. at 71 (1837-1908)
Birthplace: Caldwell, New Jersey, United States of America
The Short List: Substance abuse, food poisoning, scarlet fever, dermatitis, pneumonia, exhaustion
Benjamin Harrison began smoking cigars as early as the age of 14. While serving during the Civil War, Harrison experienced food poisoning, scarlet fever, and a skin condition of some kind, possibly contact dermatitis. While campaigning for public office, he had three physical and mental breakdowns due to overwork. This may be part of why he developed a policy of moderating his work schedule when he was president. Other than colds and a toothache, his presidency was healthy. In 1901, Harrison came down with pneumonia, which resulted in his death.
Age: Dec. at 68 (1833-1901)
Birthplace: North Bend, Ohio, United States of America
The Short List: Influenza, bullet wounds, gangrene
William McKinley was known for having an excellent memory throughout his life. While he was president, he came down with a severe case of influenza – called ‘grippe.’ On September 6, 1901, he was shot twice. One of the bullets deflected off of his chest, while the other went through his stomach. Despite showing initial signs of improvement after surgery, McKinley developed gangrene and died on September 14.
Age: Dec. at 58 (1843-1901)
Birthplace: Niles, Ohio, United States of America
The Short List: Asthma, vision loss, hearing loss, bullet wound, abscess, otitis media, rheumatism, malaria, tropical fever
Theodore Roosevelt overcame his childhood asthma by becoming active and taking up sports such as boxing and polo. He was once knocked unconscious playing the latter and blinded in one eye during the former. He contracted malaria in the Amazonian rainforest in 1898 and tropical fever from a leg wound in 1913 while in South Africa. He continued to suffer from recurrences of malaria throughout his life. Roosevelt’s near-sightedness was so bad that he could not see without his glasses; he snored; and he survived an assassination attempt in 1912. He was shot in the chest, but a folded speech and case for his glasses stopped the bullet from penetrating too deeply into his body – it was never removed. In 1918, Roosevelt had a throat infection that resulted in otitis media, which led to a loss of hearing in his left ear. He also had a thigh abscess and rheumatism. His health was weakened by malaria in 1918, and he died in his sleep, probably from a blood clot, in January 1919.
Age: Dec. at 61 (1858-1919)
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States of America
William Howard Taft
The Short List: Head injury, typhoid fever, abdominal abscess, dysentery, food poisoning, heartburn, pink eye, gout, minor injuries, constipation, atrial fibrillation, cystitis, prostate issues, hardened arteries, high blood pressure, heart infection, possible Alzheimer’s disease
William Howard Taft suffered a head injury at the age of 9 that resulted in an indentation in his skull that he carried for life. He had typhoid fever as a boy, and he had an abdominal abscess and dysentery, as well as several cases of food poisoning and heartburn while in public office. Taft generally avoided smoking and drinking, but, once he became president, he developed gout. He had colds, several eye conditions, vocal strain, hypertension, back pain, and headaches – all while in office. Taft was in car accidents in 1910 and 1921 but suffered only minor injuries. He was always obese, and his weight fluctuated dramatically throughout his life along with continuous digestive problems like constipation. He suffered from sleep apnea. He had atrial fibrillation, chronic cystitis, prostate pain, hardened arteries, high blood pressure, and mental decline in the later years of his life.
As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1923-1930), there was concern about his mental faculties and physical health, both of which were clearly declining, during the 1920s. In his final months, he experienced hallucinations and was too weak to speak and write. His death in 1930 is attributed to myocarditis, high blood pressure, and hardened arteries.
Age: Dec. at 73 (1857-1930)
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America
The Short List: Learning disability, vision impairment, bad teeth, artheroscerosis, neurological problems, strokes, circulatory disease
Woodrow Wilson grew up suffering from a learning disability, which delayed his education. He had eye twitches, wore glasses, and had bad teeth. His artheroscerosis, or the narrowing and hardening of his arteries, may have contributed to the numerous strokes he had before, during, and after his presidency. Wilson’s first stroke was in 1896. He began to experience neurological problems afterwards, including numbness in his hands, arms, and legs and the loss of vision one eye. After he became president, Wilson suffered from serious headaches, continued numbness, and a severe stroke in 1919. The stroke was hidden from his cabinet, the VP, and the world, and, while there was an awareness that he was ill by 1920, the severity of his illness remained a secret. Wilson was left paralyzed on one side, confined to bed, and isolated for months. Wilson suffered his final and fatal stroke in 1924.
Age: Dec. at 68 (1856-1924)
Birthplace: Virginia, United States of America
Warren G. Harding
The Short List: Heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, substance abuse, digestive pain, pneumonia, fatigue
Warren G. Harding had mumps as a boy, had allergies and dermatitis, and underwent mastoid surgery in 1901. Harding visited Dr. Kellogg’s sanitarium in Michigan five times between 1898 and 1901 due to fatigue. He may have had heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, and he smoked cigars and chewed tobacco. Once he became president, Harding experienced chest pains, difficulty sleeping, and exhaustion. He had the flu in 1923, as well as digestive distress, which may have been related to his circulatory problems. As his physical health declined in 1922 and 1923, Harding became depressed but he remained active and toured the country. While on a stop in San Francisco in July 1923, he complained of abdominal pain. It was initially thought to be digestive trouble. He also had pneumonia, and, due to concerns for his heart, he was rushed to his hotel where he soon died of a heart attack.
Age: Dec. at 58 (1865-1923)
Birthplace: Ohio, Morrow County, United States, with Territories, Blooming Grove
The Short List: Depression and blood clot
Calvin Coolidge’s biggest ailment was his affinity for sleep. This may have been, at least in part, the result of the depression he suffered from after the death of his son, who died from sepsis in 1924. After he retired from politics, he died of a sudden blood clot in 1933.
Age: Dec. at 61 (1872-1933)
Birthplace: Plymouth Notch, Vermont, Vermont, United States of America
The Short List: Croup, measles, mumps, diphtheria, earaches, chicken pox, gall bladder issues, shingles, cancer, pneumonia
As a baby, Herbert Hoover almost died of croup, and, during his childhood, he had measles, mumps, diphtheria, earaches, and chicken pox. During his time as president, he shook so many hands that his hands became swollen, but he was generally healthy. Later in life, he had a gall bladder attack, shingles, abdominal discomfort, and he was diagnosed with intestinal cancer at the age of 88. He had the tumor removed but remained frail. He had lost his hearing and most of his sight by 1963. In 1964, he died of gastrointestinal bleeding, complicated by pneumonia, at the age of 90.
Age: Dec. at 90 (1874-1964)
Birthplace: West Branch, Iowa, United States of America
Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Short List: Sinusitis, tonsilitis, polio, frequent colds, throat infections, hypertension, atrophy pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, hypertension, pneumonia, substance abuse, anemia, kidney problems, bronchitis, influenza, angina, cerebral hemorrhage
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was sickly from a very young age. From shortly after his birth in 1882, Roosevelt suffered respiratory troubles. Bouts with sinusitis, throat infections, tonsillitis, and pneumonia were common during the first three decades of his life. Those were relatively minor compared to the afflictions he suffered later. In 1921, Roosevelt got sick while on vacation with his family in Canada. After numerous consultations with doctors, a diagnosis of polio was confirmed. He was secretly moved back to New York where he spent months recovering and undergoing physical therapy. Relapses of sinusitis and severe head colds were a constant problem for FDR. He continued to suffer from bronchitis and the flu as well. Also, during his first two terms as president, FDR began to suffer from intestinal distress, and his kidneys developed problems. This was most likely due to his constant sitting in a wheelchair as a result of his polio.
In the late 1930s, FDR was diagnosed with systolic hypertension. In 1941, he was diagnosed with diastolic hypertension and anemia. The public was told that the President’s health was normal, but numerous public appearances were canceled as the struggled to recover. FDR was exhausted, which was exacerbated by respiratory ailments, like the flu, which caused him to cough and prevented him from sleeping. Even though FDR wasn’t overweight, his heart was struggling. Most of FDR’s weight was in his upper body, due to the atrophy of his legs, and this caused strain on his cardiac health. For the first three months of 1944, FDR had bronchial pneumonia, which was worsened by his smoking. The illness caused him to become ashen, develop dark circles under his eyes, and tremble. In March of 1944, a cardiologist diagnosed FDR with acute bronchial difficulties, severe and advanced hypertension, pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure. FDR also had fluid on his lungs, poor circulation, and an enlarged heart.
During the 1944 campaign, FDR suffered from attacks of angina. Despite being ordered to have a limited work day and a low stress routine, FDR increased his speaking engagements and campaign activities. When FDR arrived at Yalta, the other participants were shocked at his appearance. Because of his frail health, Winston Churchill (the Prime Minister of the UK) and Josef Stalin (the leader of Russia) met with FDR at the latter’s personal residence.
FDR spent time in Warm Springs, GA, in 1945 – a usual vacation spot for him – after his grueling time abroad. On April 12, he complained of stiffness and a headache before sitting for a portrait, during which he slumped, grabbed his head, and complained of terrible pain before losing consciousness. Despite efforts to stabilize and treat FDR, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage that same afternoon.
Age: Dec. at 63 (1882-1945)
Birthplace: Hyde Park, New York, United States of America
Harry S. Truman
The Short List: Diphtheria, broken bones, choking, headaches, pulmonary edema, intestinal flu, hernia, gall bladder problems, vertigo, arthritis, heart failure, pneumonia
Harry S. Truman had such a severe case of diphtheria at the age of 10 that he was paralyzed and had to be pushed around in a baby carriage. He broke his collar bone and nearly choked on a peach pit as a boy, and he began wearing glasses as early as 8 years of age. He experienced headaches, most likely from stress, and suffered minor injuries after being pinned under a horse during World War One. While he was president, Truman suffered from what was termed ‘cardiac asthma’ – most likely pulmonary edema. He took at least one retreat to try to alleviate stress and was hospitalized for the intestinal flu, as well. After he left office, Truman had gall bladder surgery in 1954, after which he experienced a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotic he was given. He also had a hernia operation in 1963. At the age of 83, he fell and broke two ribs. As he aged, he experienced vertigo and arthritis and died of lung congestion – possibly from pneumonia – and heart failure in 1972.
Age: Dec. at 88 (1884-1972)
Birthplace: Lamar, Missouri, United States of America
Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Short List: Appendicitis, abdominal pain, Crohn’s Disease, skin lesion, bowel obstructions, gall bladder removal, enlarged prostate, heart attacks, cardiac arrests, stroke
Dwight D. Eisenhower had an appendectomy when he was 33 years old and experienced chronic abdomen pain for the rest of his life. He had either a tumor or a cyst removed from his skin in 1944. He became a heavy smoker while serving in the military, smoking as many as four packs a day. He supposedly quit cold turkey in 1949. He had a heart attack and was hospitalized for six weeks in 1955. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1956 and had an operation for a bowel obstruction that same year. He also had a minor stroke in 1957, perhaps related to his earlier heart attack. The stroke left him unable to construct complete sentences for a time. Despite all of this, Eisenhower served out his entire second term. He had his gall bladder removed in 1966 and suffered from at least four heart attacks and 14 cardiac arrests in 1968. He was plagued by intestinal obstructions from 1967-1969 and suffered from an enlarged prostate. In 1969, Eisenhower had two, possibly three, heart attacks, which led to his death in March. After his death, his autopsy revealed a tumor on his adrenal gland.
Age: Dec. at 79 (1890-1969)
Birthplace: Denison, Texas, United States of America
John F. Kennedy
The Short List: Scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, jaundice, chicken pox, bronchitis, respiratory infections, tonsillitis, sports injuries, poor vision, colitis, bad back, Addison’s disease, STDs, UTIs, fevers, prostate problems, high cholesterol, bullet wounds
The health of President John F. Kennedy has long been the subject of speculation. He had scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, and jaundice as a child, as well as chicken pox, bronchitis, and recurring respiratory infections. He had his tonsils removed and needed stitches several times for injuries sustained while playing sports with his brother. He wore glasses from a very young age and was diagnosed with colitis in 1934. He continued to experience intestinal problems throughout his life. While serving in World War Two, Kennedy contracted a coral cut infection from a wound he got while swimming. He may have had malaria, as well. He had a bad back and wore a brace to stabilize his torso. Kennedy was diagnosed as anemic in 1955, and there were conflicting diagnoses of hypothyroidism as early as 1947. That same year, he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, which affected hormonal production in his adrenal glands, and given less than a year to live. He continued to suffer from the effects of Addison’s and hide them during his political campaigns and terms in office. He also experienced abscesses, UTIs, fevers, high cholesterol, and prostate problems. His drug regimen included testosterone, steroids, medications for constipation and diarrhea, sleeping aids, and pain killers. With his numerous sexual encounters, there is speculation about whether or not he had any sexually transmitted diseases because he often complained of painful urination and ejaculation. Kennedy was shot twice in Dallas in November, 1963. One bullet went through his back and exited his throat, while the other went into his head. President Kennedy died as a result of his wounds.
Age: Dec. at 46 (1917-1963)
Birthplace: Brookline, Massachusetts, United States of America
Lyndon B. Johnson
The Short List: Angina, heart attacks, substance abuse, diverticulitis
Lyndon Johnson grew up very poor but in relatively good health. He had his first heart attack when he was in his 40s, and, after the Kennedy assassination, he experienced angina while in the emergency room with the presidential entourage. He had his gall bladder removed in 1965 and liked to show off his scar. Johnson smoked until his heart attack, quit, and picked the habit back up after leaving political office. He also gained a significant amount of weight after leaving office, which contributed to continued angina. After angina attacks in 1970 and 1972, his health declined, and he started to have abdominal pains. He was diagnosed with diverticulitis, and doctors discovered that two of his coronary arteries were clogged. His heart was too weak to operate, and he died of a heart attack in 1973.
Age: Dec. at 65 (1908-1973)
Birthplace: Stonewall, Texas, United States of America
The Short List: Substance abuse, staph infection, sore knee, depression, mental breakdown, phlebitis, blood clots, atrial fibrillation, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage
During his first run for president in 1960, Richard Nixon famously looked ill compared to John F. Kennedy during their televised debate. Nixon was suffering from a staphylococcal infection and had a sore knee on the day of the debate, which contributed to his appearance. While he was president, Nixon smoked a pipe and drank. His drinking became heavier as scandals and controversy emerged, and he became increasingly paranoid and irritable. He suffered from insomnia and took sleeping pills, as well as occasionally demonstrating excessive eye-blinking. In 1974, Nixon had a blood clot and pulmonary embolism that required surgery. This may have been related to or a recurrence of an earlier bout with phlebitis in 1965. His health declined after 1974, and he remained depressed, almost despondent at times. He may have had atrial fibrillation on and off throughout his life and had a severe of a stroke in 1994. He was unable to speak or move his right side. His brain began to swell, and he died four days later.
Age: Dec. at 81 (1913-1994)
Birthplace: Yorba Linda, California, United States of America
The Short List: Stuttering, knee problems, substance use, stroke, abscess, dizziness, cold, pneumonia, coronary artery disease
Gerald Ford stuttered as a boy and had knee problems as a result of playing football in college. He eventually had both knees replaced. He was a heavy pipe smoker, and, despite being athletic and having a regular exercise routine, he is considered the clumsiest president. There is no indication that he was actually ill during his time in office. He stopped drinking in 1979, a year after his wife Betty did, and he was depressed after he lost the election of 1976. As he aged, he experienced indigestion, occasional physical injuries such as a torn ankle ligament, and had his first stroke in 2000. He also developed an abscess on his tongue that had to be drained. Ford was hospitalized for a dizzy spell in 2003, a bad cold in 2005, pneumonia and shortness of breath in 2006, and he had a pacemaker installed in 2006, as well. In December of 2006, Ford died from the effects of coronary artery disease.
Age: Dec. at 93 (1913-2006)
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, United States of America
The Short List: Hemorrhoids, broken collar bone, cancer
In 2016, Jimmy Carter announced to the world that he was in remission from pancreatic cancer. He had experienced a tumor on his liver in 2016, which is what revealed the disease in his pancreas. He was also diagnosed with melanoma in his liver and brain in 2015. As a young man, he was healthy. He experienced a severe hemorrhoid flair-up in 1978, which he later said was part of a hemorrhoid problem that had afflicted him since his time in the Navy. In addition, he once broke his collar bone while cross-country skiing.
Birthplace: Plains, Georgia, United States of America
The Short List: Near-sightedness, pneumonia, broken bone, prostate stones, TMJ, arthritis, hay fever, colds, bullet wound, collapsed lung, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease
Ronald Reagan was a 10-pound baby who grew up with few illnesses or issues. His near-sightedness began at the age of nine or 10, but it wasn’t until he had pneumonia in his 30s that he suffered from any serious physical ailment. He smoked but rarely drank, broke his femur falling off of a horse in 1949, and had several prostate stones removed in 1966. He had TMJ, arthritis in his thumb, hay fever, and experienced the occasional cold throughout his life. While president, Reagan was shot in 1981 but survived, although his mental status may have declined quickly following the injury, and his lung collapsed. The bullet lodged in his chest near his heart. He lost a lot of blood, which may have contributed to his mental confusion. He got hearing aids for both ears in 1983, had polyps removed from his colon as well as a cancerous lesion from his nose in 1985, and, in 1987, had prostate surgery. He had cancerous growths removed from his nose a total of three times. He also had surgery to repair a hand condition in 1989. There is speculation that Reagan was suffering from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s as early as the 1970s. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1994. Reagan broke his hip in 2001, and his mental faculties and physical health declined until his death from pneumonia in 2004.
Age: Dec. at 93 (1911-2004)
Birthplace: Tampico, Illinois, United States of America
George H. W. Bush
The Short List: Staph infection, heartburn, bleeding ulcers, head wound, arthritis, various injuries, Grave’s Disease, atrial fibrillation, hyperthyroidism, pre-cancerous cells, Vascular Parkinson’s Disease, pneumonia
George (Herbert Walker) Bush almost died of a staph infection as a teenager and suffered from heartburn and bleeding ulcers from his 30s onward. While serving as a pilot in World War Two, he received a head wound after ejecting from a plane. While he was president, Bush had glaucoma, arthritis, a cyst on his hand, and a sty in his eye. In 1991, he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and hyperthyroidism, which was followed by a diagnosis of Grave’s disease. He had a small goiter on his thyroid, and his condition was treated with medication. He famously threw up on the Prime Minister of Japan in 1992, which may or may not have been related to his other health conditions. He stopped taking sleeping medication during the same year and had non-cancerous cells removed from his face, although pre-cancerous lesions were removed in 2002. Bush has used a wheelchair since 2012 as a result of a form of Parkinson’s Disease. In 2015, Bush severely injured his neck and had numerous hospitalizations for breathing problems and pneumonia in 2017.
Birthplace: Milton, Massachusetts, United States of America
The Short List: Tonsillitis, rectal bleeding, knee injury, ankle injury, skin lesions, cancer, coronary artery disease
Bill Clinton had his tonsils out at the age of six. In 1994, he experienced rectal bleeding as well as a torn knee ligament. By the early 1990s, he had high cholesterol and was considered overweight at various points from 1992-2001. While he was president, Clinton suffered from allergies, which affected his voice, had a cyst and pre-cancerous lesion removed from his face in 1995 and 1996, respectively, and injured his ankle in 1997. He later had carcinoma removed from his back in 2001. Clinton underwent a quadruple coronary bypass due to coronary artery disease in 2004 after experiencing shortness of breath and chest pains. He had a follow-up operation in 2005, removing part of his lung that had become irritated during the bypass. In 2010, Clinton had two stents put in his arteries after experiencing chest pains. After that, he adopted a vegan diet, to which he attributed his improved health.
Birthplace: Hope, Arkansas, United States of America
George W. Bush
The Short List: Tonsillitis, appendicitis, skin lesions, back problems, fillings, hemorrhoids, substance abuse, colon polyps, various injuries, coronary artery disease
George (Walker) Bush had his tonsils out at age five, his appendix at age 10, and a fatty cyst removed from his chest in 1960. He has had two back surgeries and numerous fillings in his teeth, and he suffered from hemorrhoids while serving in the National Guard. His alcohol and cocaine abuse both stopped before he took office as president. He had polyps removed from his colon in 1998 and 1999. While president, Bush had non-cancerous and pre-cancerous lesions removed from his face multiple times. Bush passed out and injured his head in 2002, perhaps from choking on a pretzel, tore his meniscus in 2004, and had scrapes and bruises from when he fell off his bike in 2004 and 2005. Bush had an artery stent put in after a 2013 examination revealed an arterial blockage.
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America
The Short List: Measles, chicken pox, head injury, arm injury, substance abuse
While living in Indonesia as a child, Barack Obama had measles and chicken pox. He got hit in the head with a rock by another child, cut his arm after running into a barbed wire fence, and smoked starting in high school. He attempted to quit smoking on several occasions but did not officially quit until 2008. He also used marijuana and cocaine in college. He exercised regularly while he was in office, often running or playing basketball.
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America
The Short List: Appendicitis, high cholesterol, overweight
Donald Trump had his appendix removed at the age of 11. He is overweight and claims that he does not drink, smoke, or take in any other substances. A 2016 medical report stated that he has normal blood pressure, liver, and thyroid function. There have been numerous theories about the state of Trump’s mental health. His doctor has also reported that he takes a prescription for his cholesterol.
Birthplace: New York City, NY