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Gore's Health 'Outstanding,' Doctors Say

Politics: Newly released medical records show his cholesterol level is high, but he's as fit as an athlete.

December 16, 1999|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Vice President Al Gore's physicians declared him to be in "outstanding overall health" Wednesday, but Gore's medical records also revealed that he has "mildly elevated" cholesterol levels and a list of mostly sports-related aches and pains.

Gore's medical records, released by his office here, also show that the vice president had a common form of skin cancer removed from his forehead in 1997.

And although Gore, 51, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for five years, in the 26 years since he quit he has become an avid runner and weightlifter.

The 6-foot-3 vice president weighed 195 pounds. Both his resting heart rate (58 beats per minute) and his resting blood pressure (110/68) are considered desirable.

"The vice president's cardiovascular fitness is at the level of an athlete," said Dr. Tony Casolaro, a Northern Virginia physician who serves as the team doctor for the Washington Redskins and has not examined Gore personally.

Gore runs from 3.5 miles to seven miles four or five days a week and lifts weights on days that he does not run. Two years ago, Gore ran his first marathon, completing the 26.2-mile race in just under five hours.

The vice president has released his medical records only once before, in September 1996. Aides said they issued the records Wednesday from the vice president's office in response to numerous media requests.

The release comes less than a week after Gore's rival for the Democratic nomination, Bill Bradley, canceled a speech because of a briefly erratic heartbeat stemming from a common disorder initially diagnosed in Bradley in 1996.

Gore's records, based on a complete physical examination by a battery of military physicians on May 7, report that he has never experienced high blood pressure, diabetes, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted disease, stroke or heart disease.

Gore does occasionally suffer from lower back pain, but physicians said the episodes respond to a regimen of exercise and stretching.

An athlete since his youth, the vice president over the years has acquired a long list of sports-related injuries, including a dislocated left shoulder at age 10, fluids in the right knee in 1976, a fractured right ankle in 1980 and a sprained right shoulder while skiing last February.

Gore suffered his most serious injury when he ruptured his left Achilles' tendon while playing basketball on a Saturday morning in 1994 in the House of Representatives gym. The injury required surgery and put him on crutches for four months.

Gore's doctors said he "does not routinely" drink alcohol but does enjoy "an occasional" beer. The vice president sleeps six to seven hours nightly, doctors said.

According to the medical records, Gore's blood cholesterol count is 231, above the ideal level of 200 or below. A count of 240 is considered high.

To further assess a person's risk of developing heart disease, cardiologists like to differentiate between low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), which are called "bad cholesterol because they deposit cholesterol in the blood vessels, and high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), which are called "good cholesterol" because they help remove plaques that harden arteries.

Generally speaking, the higher the HDL level and the lower the LDL level, the lower one's risk of heart disease.

Gore's HDL level is 55; a reading of 35 or higher is considered desirable. His LDL level is 157, which is regarded as borderline high, since a reading of 130 or below is desirable.

The vice president's skin cancer was the most common form, known as basal cell carcinoma, and is almost always associated with exposure to the sun.

Gore now routinely uses sunscreen, the physicians said.

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