What we do — and don't — know about Biden and Trump's health

  • Biden so far refuses to undergo more cognitive testing after his concerning debate performance.

  • Biden has shared significantly more health information than Trump.

  • Neither candidate has taken a comprehensive slate of neurological exams.

Much has been made of President Joe Biden's health recently, with top Democrats and donors wondering whether the 81 year old is fit to serve another term. Though Donald Trump has escaped much of the age-related spotlight recently, he is 78 and the second-oldest person to ever seek the presidency.

In his defiant responses to questions about his debate performance, Biden continues to insist that he is in tip-top shape. He maintains that his fumbling answers stemmed from jet-lag, a cold, and exhaustion, not an underlying health concern.

"Look, I have a cognitive test every day," he said in an interview on Friday with ABC News.

Presidents and presidential candidates choose what to test and share about their health, leaving much up for speculation. Even before last month's debate, a professor of neurology at Harvard said that both Trump and Biden should take a "full-blown neuropsychological exam," according to the New York Times.

As age threatens to upend the entire election, what do we actually know about the candidates' health?

Joe Biden

President Joe Biden walks on stage during a 4th of July event on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2024 in Washington, DC.
President Biden hasn't undergone neurological testing since February and doesn't seem poised to do so any time soon.Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Compared to Trump, Biden has released far more comprehensive medical information, with the most recent update coming in February of 2024. Dr. Kevin O'Connor, the White House physician, published a six-page report detailing Biden's conditions, test results, medications, and vitals.

According to O'Connor, the president suffers from sleep apnea, gastric reflux, and a stiffened gait, among other conditions. A neurological exam related to his gait "was again reassuring," the report specified, and did not indicate a stroke, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis. The president exercises five days a week, weighs 178 pounds, and has a blood pressure of 132/78.

Despite the detail, though, O'Connor has not sat for interviews, as is traditional, according to The Times. Furthermore, his report included no supporting documentation. In February, O'Connor concluded that Biden did not need to take the Neuropsychological Assessment Battery, a slate of 33 tests that looks for dementia and other brain abnormalities.

One cognitive test is not sufficient to detect issues, doctors told the Wall Street Journal. While basic tests measure memory, executive functioning, language, and judgment, only PET scans and other more comprehensive exams help doctors make diagnoses about conditions like Alzheimer's.

Visitor logs indicate that an expert on Parkinson's disease visited the White House eight times between July 2023 and March of this year, meeting at least once with O'Connor. It's not yet clear if the specialist visited the White House to discuss Biden in particular or other matters, The Times reported.

Biden doesn't seem poised to undergo comprehensive neurological examinations anytime soon, despite the chorus calling on him to do so.

Donald Trump

Trump speaking at a microphone while wearing a MAGA hat.
Trump has released very little detailed medical information.Scott Olson/Getty Images

Trump boasts about his vitality often and even said he "aced" two cognitive tests during the recent debate. The public, however, knows shockingly little about the former president's health.

In November, 2023, Trump's personal physician blasted out a glowing, vague, three-paragraph summary about his cognitive and physical abilities. In it, Dr. Bruce Aronwald said that he has conducted "several comprehensive examinations" and called Trump's cognitive exams "exceptional." His physical results, the brief report continues, were all within the normal range. Aronwald's report did not include any details about Trump's medications, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels.

Some have drawn attention to Trump's weight in the past, but Aronwald noted that he has shed some pounds, though didn't specify how many. Trump was weighed the Fulton County Jail during one of his criminal trials in August, 2023. According to that reading, he weighed 215 pounds, though some question the measurement.

In 2018, Trump asked to take the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test, which screens for dementia, and boasted about his perfect score. Like Biden, though, Trump has made significant public gaffes, such as when he called the president of Egypt the "president of Mexico."

Doctors note that the test does not measure intelligence and say anyone without dementia should score perfectly. Trump's father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in his mid-80s, putting the former president at higher risk for the disease.

Read the original article on Business Insider