Health

U.S. presidents: Ailing in office

Updated 4:55 PM ET, Mon December 14, 2015
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A study by Duke psychiatrists found John Adams would have been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
William Henry Harrison battled with dyspepsia and indigestion. Before he had been in office a month, he caught a cold that developed into pneumonia. On April 4, 1841, he became the first president to die while in office.
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Abraham Lincoln is widely thought to have suffered from depression. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The study by Duke psychiatrists found Ulysses S. Grant would have been diagnosed as an alcoholic with social phobias.
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Chester Arthur was diagnosed with Bright's disease, a fatal kidney condition, after a year in office. He did not seek a second term and died less than two years after leaving office. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Grover Cleveland suffered from obesity and gout and was treated for cancer in his jaw while in office.

"President Cleveland was one of the most compelling stories of concealment in the high office," said Jerrold Post, professor emeritus of psychiatry, political psychology and international affairs at George Washington University. "He was brushing his teeth one day and found a lump on roof of the mouth. Instead of telling the public, he smuggled his dentist, head and neck surgeon and surgical team onto a pleasure yacht, where they removed the roof of his mouth to get rid of the carcinoma. He emerged a week later complaining of a toothache."
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Theodore Roosevelt suffered from asthma and was blind in one eye as the result of a boxing injury in 1905. He was also deaf in one ear.
The 2006 study by Duke psychiatrists applied today's diagnostic criteria to historical records and found Roosevelt would have been diagnosed with bipolar.
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Woodrow Wilson had a debilitating stroke in 1919 that left him partially paralyzed while in office. According to Jerrold Post, Wilson had suffered several strokes while he served as president of Princeton but never revealed his medical history to voters.

While in office, "he suffered a massive stroke, but they concealed it and just said he was under the weather and no one was informed," Post said.
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt was paralyzed in both legs, likely as a result of polio that struck when he was 39. But it was the cover-up of his advanced heart disease and elevated blood pressure when he ran for his fourth term that historians question. FDR died just a few months after that election.
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Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered from ongoing gastrointestinal problems. He was later diagnosed with Crohn's disease. M. McNeill/Fox Photos/Getty Images
John F. Kennedy "probably had more diseases than any of the other presidents," said George Annas, chairman of the department of health law, bioethics and human rights at Boston University School of Public Health. Kennedy took office suffering from hypothyroidism, back pain and Addison's disease and was on a daily dose of steroids and other drugs.
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Lyndon Johnson had serious heart disease, which he often concealed, during his years in the Senate and White House, and it was his failing health that kept him from running against Nixon in 1968. The study by Duke psychiatrists also found that Johnson would have been diagnosed as bipolar. National Archives/Newsmakers
Ronald Reagan had a cancerous tumor and two feet of his colon removed in 1985, but it was his diagnosis of Alzheimer's following his presidency that have many wondering whether his performance in office was affected. Ronald Reagan Library/Getty Images
George H. W. Bush was diagnosed with Grave's disease while in office. According to former White House physician Connie Mariano, "There was some question when he had hyperthyroidism, Grave's disease, around the time of the Gulf War. Did that make him more hyper and aggressive? Did it affect his memory, his ability to focus? It's hard to say." Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Image