Lee R. Mandel, MD, MPH
At the age of 43 years, John F. Kennedy was the youngest man ever elected president. Throughout both his campaign and his presidency, he was portrayed as the epitome of youth and vigor. In fact, he had the most complex medical history of anyone to occupy the White House. The recent opening of his White House medical records has provided researchers greater insight into the multiple medical conditions that afflicted Kennedy. A recent review of these records, coupled with other available sources, allows new understanding of his health history that can now be explained in the context of a unifying autoimmune endocrine disorder.
Jack's examination revealed a rather unique finding, which he perhaps discussed with you by this time. His blood pressure was exceedingly low, being in the neighborhood of 85, and for a boy of this age it should be approximately 120. This so-called static hypotension is a comparatively recently recognized entity and it might well be that some of Jack's gastrointestinal difficulties are attributable to this finding.
The time of diagnosis of gastrointestinal symptoms, adrenal insufficiency, and hypothyroidism are plotted against Kennedy's body weight at various ages. Arabic numbers at each solid circle are the references from which body weight information was obtained.
* Sinking of PT-109, August 1943.
† Addison disease diagnosed, September 1947.
‡ Unsuccessful back surgery, October 1954.
§ Suspected initiation of testosterone therapy, July to August 1960.
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Mandel LR. Endocrine and Autoimmune Aspects of the Health History of John F. Kennedy. Ann Intern Med. ;151:350–354. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-151-5-200909010-00011
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(5):350-354.
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