10 intriguing health facts about U.S. Presidents
Presidents' Day arrives on February 22, a day when we honor the February birthdays of two of our most honored presidents (George Washington and Abraham Lincoln). And, of course celebrate each man who has held the office throughout the history of the United States.
While we see many of these men as larger-than-life figures, they were just as human as we are and suffered from the same illnesses and succumbed to the same bad habits as the rest of us. As scholars look back on the lives of the Presidents this holiday, often it is the medical issues they faced that sheds light on the men they were and the age that they lived in.
Here are a few of the most interesting health facts we here at FSAstore.com have found about the men who have held the highest office in the U.S.
Thomas Jefferson's deformed wrist
In the summer of 1785, Thomas Jefferson was the U.S. minister to France. While the true story has been lost to history, Jefferson was said to have jumped over a fence to impress a French woman and ended up breaking his wrist. Jefferson described the incident in a letter to American artist John Trumbull: "It was by one of those follies from which good cannot come, but ill may." Unfortunately, the wrist was improperly set by French doctors, and the wrist remained deformed and painful for the rest of his life.
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The Adams' male pattern baldness
Both the 2nd President John Adams, and his son John Quincy, contended with male pattern baldness. While his father was able to cover this up with the powdered wigs popular in his day, baldness was a notable family trait that affected multiple generations.
William Henry Harrison's pneumonia
William Henry Harrison holds the unfortunate distinction for the shortest time in office at just 32 days in 1841. Harrison gave a two-hour inaugural speech on a cold, rainy March day and soon developed a cold that progressed into pneumonia. Harrison later passed after a long battle with the condition.
James Polk's hand shaking injuries
Shaking hands is a fact of life for any politician, but it appeared that the 11th President had more trouble with the practice than most. Polk suffered from a variety of strain injuries from shaking hands, but developed a technique later in his presidency to put less stress on his hands to prevent lingering pain.
Millard Fillmore's healthy habits
Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the United States, is what we can consider the White House's first true health nut. Unlike many of his generation Fillmore did not smoke or drink, and he constantly made changes to his habits and lifestyle he believed could improve his physical well-being.
William Howard Taft's obesity
William Howard Taft is undoubtedly the largest man to ever occupy the White House and by the end of his term he weighed an astonishing 340 pounds. However, Taft lost a remarkable amount of weight later in his life, nearly reaching his college-age weight of 245 pounds by the late 1920s.
Calvin Coolidge's sleep habits
The 30th President put a notable emphasis on his sleep cycle and was known to sleep 11 hours each day. Coolidge was known to retire to bed at 10 p.m., wake up between 7 and 9 a.m. and always made time for an afternoon nap lasting 2 to 4 hours.
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John F. Kennedy's back issues
John F. Kennedy's back issues were never revealed to the public until after his death, but they were a constant source of difficulty starting from a young age. Throughout his Presidency, JFK wore a back brace and took medication to manage the pain from his condition.
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Gerald Ford's lack of sleep
As opposed to Calvin Coolidge, Gerald Ford's staffers were known to be worn out by the 38th President's astonishing energy level. Ford was extremely fond of red-eye flights, as well as being able to function at a high level after only 5 hours of sleep.
Barack Obama quits smoking
Shortly before entering the White House, the 44th President made a vow to his wife, Michelle, that he would quit smoking before entering the 2008 race. Though he had smoked since high school, Obama managed to quit thanks to the use of smoking cessation products like nicotine gum.
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