BETHESDA, Md. (AP) – President Joe Biden remains “healthy” and “vigorous” and able to work, but is showing signs of aging, his doctor said on Friday after the oldest president in U.S. history underwent his first routine physical exam in the office and – at a historic moment – briefly transferred power to Vice President Kamala Harris while he underwent a colonoscopy.

Harris, the first woman, first black person and first person of South Asian origin to serve as vice president, served – for an hour and 25 minutes – as interim president while Biden was under anesthesia.

For more than five hours Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the president underwent a battery of blood, physical, gastrointestinal, dental, visual and neurological examinations. Dr Kevin O’Connor, who has been Biden’s primary care physician since 2009, wrote in a six-page White House memo that Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, “remains a 78-year-old man in good health. healthy and vigorous man, who is able to carry out successfully the functions of the Presidency.

O’Connor, however, revealed he had investigated Biden for increased cases of “clearing throat” during public remarks and a stiffening of his gait. O’Connor reported that Biden’s cough was the result of gastrointestinal reflux and the stiff gait was the result of a new diagnosis of “mild peripheral neuropathy”, spinal arthritis and compensation for a foot fracture suffered a year ago.

Interest in Biden’s health has been high since he declared his White House candidacy in 2019 and remains intense as speculation about a 2024 re-election bid swirls. The visit to the suburban Washington Medical Center was his first routine physical exam as president – and his first since December 2019.

As part of the screening, Biden underwent an “extremely detailed neurological exam” that ruled out stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but detected neuropathy, which is nerve damage. hands and feet. O’Connor said the most common cause of the disease is diabetes, but Biden does not have diabetes. Biden, he said, would soon try custom orthotics to improve his gait.

During Biden’s colonoscopy, a “benign-looking polyp” of about 3 millimeters was identified and removed and would be studied over the next week. O’Connor said Biden has never had colon cancer.

The body mass index reported by Biden classified him as slightly overweight, but his cholesterol was under control. Biden, O’Connor said, is prescribed the anticoagulant Eliquis, the statin Crestor and the seasonal allergy spray Dymista, and regularly takes the over-the-counter allergy pill Allegra and the antacid Pepcid.

O’Connor said Biden does not use tobacco products or drink alcohol and exercise at least five days a week.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said he returned to duty after speaking to Harris and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain at around 11:35 a.m.

As Biden left the medical center in the afternoon, he said he felt “good!” “

“A great physical vote and a great vote in the House of Representatives,” he said, referring to the House’s adoption of its approximately $ 2 trillion social and environmental program.

After returning to the White House, he said “Nothing has changed” with his health, joking, “We are in great shape and I can’t wait to celebrate my 58th birthday.”

While she was interim president, Harris worked from her office in the West Wing, Psaki said. She then traveled to Ohio once Biden woke up from the procedure.

Biden was keenly aware of the history he was making when he chose Harris to be his running mate, Psaki said, adding that she was making “history every day” at work.

“Today was certainly another chapter in this story which I think will be noted for women, young girls across the country,” she added.

In Biden’s last physical examination, medics found former vice president “healthy, vigorous” and “fit to successfully perform the duties of the presidency,” according to report by then-doctor .

In that report, O’Connor said that since 2003, Biden has had episodes of atrial fibrillation, a potentially serious but treatable type of irregular heartbeat. At the time, O’Connor cited a list of tests that showed Biden’s heart was functioning normally and his only care needed was a blood thinner to prevent the most worrying risk, blood clots or stroke.

Biden came close to death in 1988, requiring surgery to repair two brain aneurysms, weak bulges in the arteries, one of which was leaking. Biden has never had a recurrence, his doctor said, citing a test in 2014 that looked at his arteries.

Dr Jeffrey Linder, chief of general internal medicine and geriatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, read the White House report and said it did not contain anything particularly concerning.

“Overall, according to this report, he appears to be in pretty good shape, with very common age-related illness,” including atrial fibrillation and a stiff gait, Linder said.

Although the cause of Biden’s mild neuropathy is unknown, Linder said it was not an unusual problem or cause for concern, unless it was bothersome for the president. He added that there was no reason to believe the small polyp that had been removed was cancerous, given Biden’s medical history.

“I encourage her to continue exercising, eating well and taking her medication,” Linder said.

In accordance with the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, Biden signed letters to Senator Patrick Leahy, President pro tempore of the Senate, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at 10:10 a.m., saying he would not be able to perform their duties under anesthesia. , making Harris the interim president. Biden wrote to himself after the procedure to resume his duties at 11:35 a.m.

“As was the case when President George W. Bush had the same procedure in 2002 and 2007, and following the process defined in the Constitution, President Biden will transfer power to the Vice President for the brief period he is under. anesthesia. “Psaki said before Biden’s colonoscopy.

On Friday afternoon, Biden attended the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon.

When Biden took office, he brought O’Connor back to the White House to continue being his doctor, and O’Connor led a team of experts to perform Biden’s physical examination on Friday.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020, Biden’s team took intense action to keep the then candidate and now president healthy as the virus raged and wreaked disproportionate havoc among older populations. Biden received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020 and his second dose just two weeks before taking office. He received a booster dose, which regulators say provides longer lasting protection, in late September.

Former President Donald Trump, 75, has come under heavy criticism for disclosing only superficial details about his health while running for and serving in the White House, including covering up the severity of his COVID illness. 19 one month before the 2020 presidential election.

AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner contributed to this report.

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