The Healthiest (and Unhealthiest) U.S. Presidents of All Time
During his campaign, many questioned President Donald Trump’s physical and mental health. At 70, he was the oldest president-elect in our country’s history. Though some speculated otherwise, reports assured the public he was perfectly healthy.
Regardless, he’s certainly not as unhealthy as many past presidents — at least that we know of. These are the healthiest — and least healthy — U.S. presidents we’ve had so far.
1. A runner at heart: George W. Bush
For much of his life, George W. Bush depended on distance running to help him sleep, stay positive, and spend quality time outdoors. Exercising significantly improved the former president’s quality of life. He credits his running habit for helping him quit alcohol and tobacco. He is one of the only presidents to date who has run a marathon.
Next: Ford was the oldest ex-president when he passed away.
2. Prioritizing health for others: Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford was America’s oldest retired president at the time of his death in 2006. He seemed to remain in good health for most of his life, which allowed him to support Betty Ford through her illness. Even though his wife battled alcohol dependence, the two opened a research, rehabilitation, and treatment center to support those in need of help. In his free time, Ford enjoyed downhill skiing and golf.
Next: Our first president wasn’t always healthy, but he kept living anyway.
3. Sick, but still a fighter: George Washington
George Washington is often credited for his physical resilience. He fought against British soldiers as well as many common illnesses of the time — dysentery, smallpox, and even malaria and tuberculosis. He probably should have died much earlier than he did, considering his long list of ailments. But he earns a spot on this list as one of our healthiest presidents because he never let any of that obstruct his path to victory.
Next: It was unusual for men to live this long in the 1800s.
4. A longer-than-average life: John Quincy Adams
Despite suffering a fatal brain bleed, John Quincy Adams lived until he was 80 years old, which was considered unusual in the 1840s. From what we can tell, he didn’t suffer any major health ailments before collapsing from a hemorrhage while addressing Congress. Whether habit or luck played a role in his above-average life expectancy, he spent his many years serving his country well, especially as he fought against slavery.
Next: His doctor invented a sport to keep him in shape.
5. A sport just for him: Herbert Hoover
It turns out the original HIIT workout dates back to the early 1800s. White House physician Joel T. Boone reportedly invented what came to be known as Hoover-ball to keep president Hoover in top shape. A combination of medicine ball, tennis, and volleyball, Hoover-ball didn’t require a lot of skill, but did require a lot of vigorous movement. Hoover and his staff played six mornings a week, and the president only canceled one game.
Next: Are you as healthy as Barack Obama was in 2016?
6. An active lifestyle despite job stress: Barack Obama
Our 44th president might be one of the healthiest on record. Despite his stressful full-time job, Barack Obama managed to maintain above-average health for his age, according to a report the White House released in 2016. The report claims he ate well, exercised regularly, and consumed alcohol “in moderation” as his presidency approached its end.
Next: Though he eventually lost weight, this president once weighed over 300 pounds.
7. The heaviest president in history: William Taft
Doctors couldn’t offer William Taft drugs or weight-loss surgery to cure his obesity — those remedies didn’t exist yet. So he did the only thing he could at the time to get healthy. The president did manage to gain control over his weight for a time, working with professionals to modify his diet and engage in regular physical activity. Unfortunately, he regained and lost more weight before he died in 1930 at around 280 pounds.
Next: He had more than one heart attack, among other ailments.
8. Crohn’s disease and heart trouble: Dwight Eisenhower
When you’re the president of the United States, it’s not easy to hide serious health issues from the American people. Dwight Eisenhower suffered his first heart attack during his presidency, but told the public he suffered from an upset stomach. However, his health issues didn’t stop him from running for a second term in office in 1956 — and winning.
Next: He was overweight, which led to multiple chronic conditions throughout his lifetime.
9. Heart disease and diabetes: Warren Harding
Warren Harding’s wife refused an autopsy at the time of his death. So we aren’t completely sure what actually ended his life. Most experts agree that his heart problems were to blame — a heart attack marking the end of his long battle with his cardiovascular health. Toward the end of his life, he complained he didn’t have enough energy for golf, and his blood pressure remained dangerously high.
Next: He refused to give up alcohol and tobacco, even though his doctors said he had to.
10. Smallpox, bad teeth, and lead poisoning: Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson’s health problems began when he contracted smallpox at a young age, likely weakening his immune system. His habit of dueling led to more than one bullet wound — and probably lead and/or mercury poisoning from a bullet in his chest doctors couldn’t remove. He, like many others before dentists officially became a thing, also suffered from rotten teeth, which we now know can cause a host of other health problems.
Next: This president tried to keep his condition hidden from the American public.
11. High blood pressure, strokes, and paralysis: Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson was a hard-working leader, but this eventually damaged his health. He suffered from multiple heart conditions long before he was elected president. He had a massive stroke during his presidency, and it left him paralyzed. Wilson spent a lot of time in denial about how much of a toll overworking took on his body. Both his doctor and wife worked to hide his illness, and he was too stubborn to resign.
Next: This president was known for having an exceptional memory, until his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
12. Smoking, cancer, and Alzheimer’s: Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan may have proved the onset of disease doesn’t always stop a person from doing the most difficult job in the country. Even though Reagan wasn’t officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease until 1994, he had problems with his memory before that. Many suspect Reagan began showing signs of the degenerative disorder while he was still president. He died in June 2004.
Next: An operation left this president partially deaf. He also lost sight in one eye.
13. Broken bones and blindness: Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt, prone to accidents and misfortune, was pretty much born unhealthy. He developed asthma as an infant. Despite spending so much of his life plagued by illness, it was his family’s travels around the world, in an attempt to relieve his symptoms, that made him more aware of the foreign political climates any aspiring president is required to master. He broke multiple bones throughout his life, and eventually lost sight in one eye after a boxing accident.
Next: This president’s health deteriorated throughout his life.
14. A gunshot wound, malaria, and tuberculosis: James Monroe
Among his many health issues, James Monroe contracted tuberculosis, which he ultimately died from in 1831. Unlike Washington, James Monroe wasn’t able to fight his illnesses long enough to accomplish what he really wanted to — write his autobiography. Monroe isn’t the only president who died on July 4, but that’s probably just a coincidence.
Next: John Tyler was the first president to inherit the role after the current president passed away.
The unhealthiest president of all time: William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison acted as Commander in Chief for 31 days before his death on April 4, 1841. Unfortunately, his medical care at the time probably led to his early death. Historians have long thought he died of pneumonia. The New York Times reports it’s much more likely Harrison died of enteric fever, a bacterial infection that led to septic shock. He already had a digestive condition, which likely worsened his illness.