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U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Dr. Ronny Jackson after his annual physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

What we know and don’t know about Donald Trump’s medical exam

President Donald Trump recently had his first routine physical exam, along with cognitive testing, performed by the White House physician Ronny Jackson.

The exam confirmed good physical and cognitive health, Jackson said, while unveiling areas, such as his diet, that need improvement. But just how much does this test tell us about Trump’s health?

As a primary care doctor, when I meet with patients for their annual appointments, I, too, examine them head-to-toe to determine their level of health. I listen to the patient’s heart, discuss diet and exercise, and evaluate blood work for the exam.

With a BMI of 29.9 indicating he is overweight, the exam of the 71-year-old president revealed normal vision, heart, and lungs. Jackson also included an echocardiogram and exercise stress test that zeroed in further on Mr. Trump’s heart. Both of them were normal as well.

Mr. Trump’s lab work showed high cholesterol, for which he is taking Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering medication.

“He had a total cholesterol of 223. Triglycerides of 129. HDL of 67. An LDL cholesterol of 143,” Jackson said last week during a news briefing at the White House.

Here’s what those numbers mean. LDL, a shortened name for low-density lipoprotein, is considered bad cholesterol. The goal is to get this number to less than 100. “Good cholesterol,” called HDL, for high-density lipoprotein, should ideally be over 40 — a mark the president hits. Triglycerides usually offer clues about a patient’s diet and should be under 100. That’s not the case for Trump.

Jackson suggested the president to eat healthier food and exercise more to prevent downstream effects of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart disease, all complications of high cholesterol, a condition that plagues millions of Americans. Jackson said he increased the dosage of Trump’s cholesterol medication to further improve his levels.

President Trump’s mental ability was also tested, something White House physicians have not typically done in the past, Jackson said. The test is called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which is typically performed to evaluate for cognitive impairment. Jackson gave him a perfect score of 30. A score of 26 and above is normal; lower scores indicate mild cognitive impairment.

In my practice, the MoCA is only done if I suspect a patient has dementia. The test assesses language, attention and memory recall. Parts of MoCA resemble children’s games, like drawing a box and a clock. A doctor evaluates a patient’s memory, asking the patient to remember several words and repeat them back minutes later. These sections of MoCA assess cognitive function. A note though: this test does not look at the complete picture of mental health as a psychiatric evaluation would.

Trump will need another exam next year to follow up on the doctor’s recommendations, especially those involving diet, exercise and cholesterol levels.

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