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14% of American Presidents Have Suffered From Strokes

April 20, 1994| From a Times Staff Writer

Being President could be bad for your neurological health, according to a USC researcher who has found that 14%--or six out of 42--of U.S. presidents have suffered from strokes either during or after their tenure, including former President Richard Nixon.

Dr. Shri K. Mishra, a USC professor of neurology and historian for the American Academy of Neurology, had just completed a research paper on the incidence of stroke among presidents when Nixon was stricken Monday. He combed through historical documents and books to find that:

Stroke--which occurs when a blood vessel bringing oxygen to the brain bursts or is blocked--was, predictably, the most common neurological affliction among the chief executives. Other neurological disorders include Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Two presidents--Warren G. Harding and Franklin D. Roosevelt--died of strokes while in office. Thomas Jefferson, who suffered from diabetes and was plagued by episodes of memory loss, is believed to have died from a stroke. Woodrow Wilson experienced two strokes; the second one killed him.

While stroke remains the third leading cause of death in the United States, its incidence has declined by 50% over the last 15 years, and Mishra says the health of presidents follows this trend. The last president to suffer a stroke was Dwight D. Eisenhower. He recovered but was left with impaired speech.

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