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Biden found to be "healthy" and "fit" to be president, says White House physician

Historic transfer of power during Biden physical
Historic transfer of power during Biden physi... 01:50

President Biden "remains a healthy, vigorous 78-year-old male who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency," White House physician Dr. Kevin O'Connor wrote in a memo to White House press secretary Jen Psaki Friday. But O'Connor also took note of a couple of issues evident in the president's health profile after the completion of Mr. Biden's routine physical Friday morning.

O'Connor noted that there has been an increase in the frequency of Mr. Biden's coughing during public speeches. He has always coughed, O'Connor said, but the coughing has become "more frequent and pronounced" over the last few months. He attributed this to reflux.

He also noted that there's more stiffness and less fluidity in the president's gait, which he concluded is the result of "wear and tear" osteoarthritic changes to the president's spine.

Mr. Biden also underwent a "detailed neurologic exam," which "was reassuring in that there were no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's or ascending lateral sclerosis,"  O'Connor wrote. He has been Mr. Biden's primary physician for 13 years and was also the author of the last memo on Mr. Biden's physical health, which was released in 2019.

Mr. Biden weighs 184 pounds and "works out at least five days per week," O'Connor also noted.  

The president's physical included a colonoscopy — he temporarily transferred his power to Vice President Kamala Harris Friday while he was under anesthesia for the procedure. The colonoscopy showed he had one benign-appearing polyp, which was removed "without difficulty." Test results on the polyp are expected next week, the memo says.

The brief transfer of power — one hour and 25 minutes, to be exact — made Harris the first female acting president. She worked from her office in the West Wing during that time. White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that President George W. Bush also transferred power temporarily for the same procedure in 2002 and 2007. 

"Feeling great!" the president told reporters Friday after his exam. "I had a great physical and a great House of Representatives vote. Good day!" 

The president signed letters addressed to congressional leadership informing them of the temporary transfer of power. 

"In accordance with the provisions of section 3 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, this letter shall constitute my written declaration that I am presently unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office of the president of the United States," Mr. Biden wrote at 10:10 a.m. "Pursuant to section 3, the vice president shall discharge those powers and duties as acting president until I transmit to you a written declaration that I am able to resume the discharge of those powers and duties." 

In the subsequent letters to congressional leadership, Mr. Biden wrote at 11:35 a.m.: "In accordance with the provisions of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, I hereby transmit to you my written declaration that I am able to discharge the powers and duties of the office of the president of the United States and that I am resuming those powers and duties." 

The White House said in May that he would undergo his medical checkup at some point this year and that its results would be released to the public but had offered no further updates until Friday. 

His last physical on record was nearly two years ago in December 2019, when he was a candidate. At the time, Mr. Biden's doctor said he was a "healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency." The doctor did note he has an irregular heartbeat, called nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. Mr. Biden continues to be treated for atrial fibrillation, according to Friday's physical, and he "remains completely asymptomatic."

Mr. Biden, the country's oldest president in history, turns 79 Saturday. 

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