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Advice to Obama on battling presidential aging

Posted by kayms99 on January 8, 2009

art_obama_popphoto1By Madison Park
(CNN) — When a new president strolls into the White House, there’s a kick in his step and a twinkle in his eyes.
more photos » But as the years go by, the high-stakes decisions, constant criticisms and the fluctuating public opinion chip away at the president. His shoulders slump a little and his energy may seem sapped.

The president ages twice as fast while in office, according to a theory advanced by Dr. Michael Roizen, a chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic.

“The typical person who lives one year ages one year,” he said. “The typical president ages two years for every year they are in office.”

Using public information, Roizen looked through medical records of previous presidents back to Theodore Roosevelt. Assessing factors such as diet, blood pressure, physical activity and lifestyle habits, he calculated that the leader of the free world ages more quickly.

Roizen, who is the author of “RealAge: Are You as Young as You Can Be?” has not assessed the “real age” of President-elect Barack Obama, who is 47, because of lack of medical data.

“Barack Obama is a fairly young guy and doesn’t have great of a risk,” Roizen said. “If he’s president for eight years, he ends up having the risk of disability or dying, like someone who is 16 years older.”

Former president Bill Clinton entered the office with a robust head of salt-and-pepper hair and a healthy habit of running. After bitter partisan battles, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and impeachment by the House, Clinton left office with wrinkles and powder-white hair.

“Chronic stress can produce lots of wear and tear on the body,” said James A. McCubbin, a Clemson University professor of psychology and senior associate dean of the College of Business and Behavioral Science. “This is what we see in the changes in the appearance in the beginning and end of the presidency.”

Roizen points to the experience of Ronald Reagan.

“When Reagan came into office, he stood up absolutely straight. He was joking and incredibly quick-witted about current events. When he left office, he was hunched over. The age signs on face was there. His jokes were those of olden days rather than current events,” he said. See the toll of the presidency »

On Wednesday, Obama, President George W. Bush, and all three living former presidents — Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Clinton — are meeting in the Oval Office and then having lunch together at the White House.

After eight draining years in the Oval Office, an outgoing president like George W. Bush can reverse the tolls of stress by exercising and spending time with friends, Roizen says.

“Do as many healthy things as you can adopt,” Roizen suggested. “The main thing he should do is finding what he wants to do with the rest of his life, which is tough for presidents to find something meaningful to do.”

During his second term, Bush dealt with a troubled war, a struggling economy, and sagging approval ratings. But the avid runner, mountain biker and fisherman showed that his reflexes haven’t slowed.

“I mean, did you see him dodge that shoe?” said David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine, referring to a December news conference in Iraq where an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at the president and Bush swiftly ducked the flying footwear. Twice.

The incoming president is also no slacker. Although accused by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of having skinny legs, Obama regularly frequents the gym and plays basketball. The president-elect was on the cover of Men’s Health in November.

“This is not a broccoli-shunning, pork rind-eating, McDonald’s-popping guy. I mean, this is someone who eats arugula and guacamole and Hawaiian pizza,” Zinczenko told CNN. Watch a report on presidential aging »

“If the worst that happens is that your hair goes a little gray, so be it.”

Many recent presidents have turned to sports to decompress. Presidents have enjoyed mountain biking (George W. Bush), golf (Clinton, Gerald Ford, Dwight D. Eisenhower), tennis (Ford, Carter, George H.W. Bush), jogging (Clinton, Carter and both Bushes), swimming (Ford), bowling (Richard Nixon), horseshoes (George H.W. Bush) and horseback riding (Reagan). Check out projected aging of other political leaders

“The daily routine of a president is really grueling,” Ron Nessen, Ford’s press secretary, told CNN. “It’s hard to get thinking time. Ford talked about how when he was swimming laps, it gave him time to think about things.”

During the Democratic primaries, Obama worked out at the gym in the Cleveland Clinic the morning of his debate with then-rival Hilary Clinton. Living up to his nickname “No Drama Obama,” the candidate was remarkably calm, considering a high-stakes debate was to take place that night, Roizen recalled.

“Maybe he will age better, because he handles stress better,” he said. “The fact that he smokes means he still has inner stress.”

Retaining a close group of friends and confidants is an important way to reduce the isolation of the presidency, Roizen said.
CNN’s Alina Cho and David S. Martin contributed to this report.



6 Responses to “Advice to Obama on battling presidential aging”

  1. Anonymous said

    Wow, this entire article is a complete waist of time, please, to the writers and the Doctors invovled, get a life


  2. Rj said

    I thought this was entertaining.


  3. kathy (kayms91) said

    Anonymous… sorry.. I probably should have filed this under health instead of politics… maybe that is what ‘threw’ you…
    I find this subject fascinating… using presidents to show how stress ages people is extremely beneficial because you can SEE the proof. I can’t think of a better example. There is no job more stressful than being president for sure. And when you see how they have aged so much you can’t help but wonder how much and what they do know that we will never be ‘allowed’ to know as ordinary citizens. Another fascinating aspect of this subject.

    “waste of time” and “get a life”? are you kidding? This article supplies information that can help YOU KEEP your life.


  4. dorian9 said

    with two wars and a half and an dire economic situation we can say obama has it worse than the past four presidents so we can only wish him well. kay, your post is right where it should be..and it was entertaining.


  5. lawman2 said

    @anonymous wasn’t too proud of their comment other wise they would have left their name.

    thank you kay for the post and it was an interesting read.i try to make a min or two to check in inbetween the absolute chaos of the last few days.


  6. kathy (kayms91) said

    Thanks Dorian, Rj and Lawman for sticking up for my article…
    Dorian.. you are so right.. Obama has got it worse than any other president I can think of… with the economies of the rest of the world being affected by ours… Obama literally has the whole world depending on him.

    Lawman.. I’m going to post another article… when you get a chance could you let me know how to do the “Read the rest of this entry” part?…


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