Republican vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan arrives at a campaign… (Matt Sullivan / Getty Images )
Paul Ryan, like his much older running mate, is in fine fettle and physically capable of carrying out the duties required of the vice president of the United States, according to the attending physician of the United States Congress, who has been examining the Wisconsin congressman since he was first elected to national office at age 28.
Still, the 42-year-old fitness buff, who has said his biggest vice is his two-cups-a-day coffee habit, is not without knee and back ailments that are familiar to exercise-conscious Americans, according to Dr. Brian Monahan, who examined Ryan last December.
In a letter to released Friday by the Romney campaign, Monahan said that in addition to a herniated disc in his lower back, and knee trouble, Ryan has “airway hypersensitivity” that is treated on occasion with an albuterol inhaler. Albuterol is a bronchodilator that relaxes the muscles around the lung’s airways, and is often used by people whose breathing is constricted by asthma. The letter does not spell out the cause of Ryan’s problem, though intense exercise can trigger asthma-like attacks in some people.
Ryan, who got into a little hot water last month when Runner’s World found that he considerably understated his time in the only marathon he has ever run (he claimed to have run a “sub-three” but had finished the 26-mile course in just over four hours) has a “right knee medial meniscus injury,” according to Monahan -- a cartilage tear that often results from strenuous physical activity.
The congressman, who once considered a career as a skier, is well known on Capitol Hill for his devotion to working out. He has often gathered up a bipartisan group of a dozen or so fellow pols to do the cross-training workout program P90X, which includes cardio, pull-ups, push-ups, karate and yoga elements, and aims for strength through “muscle confusion.”
“Your overall health is excellent,” wrote Monahan in a letter to Ryan dated Sept. 7, 2012, almost a month after Romney announced Ryan as his running mate on Aug. 11.
“You have a previously established diagnosis of airway hypersensitivity occasionally treated with an as needed albuterol inhaler, as well as a herniated disc L5-S1 and a right knee medial meniscus injury.”
The doctor noted that Ryan’s paternal family history “is significant for early onset (late fifties) of coronary artery disease.” Ryan has said he is extremely conscious of his health because his father died of a heart attack in his sleep at age 55 when Ryan was 16.
Monahan reported that his examination revealed “well controlled” blood pressure of 121/62, a heart rate of 59 beats per minute. The slender Ryan carries only 163 pounds on his 6-foot-2-inch frame. A former personal trainer, he has said his body fat ranges from 6% to 8%, though his physician’s letter did not address that topic.
Electrocardiogram tests, lung function tests and bloodwork were all normal, the physician said. Ryan’s total cholesterol is 184 mg/dl. A number below 200 is desirable, according to the Mayo Clinic’s health information website. His HDL (high density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol) was 71 mg/dl while his LDL (low density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol) measured 96mg/dl. His triglyceride count was 86 mg/dl.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the readings are consistent with low risk for heart disease.
“You have practiced important preventive lifestyle choices to include regular vigorous aerobic and strength building exercises, a heart healthy diet, smoking abstinence and infrequent alcohol use,” wrote Monahan. “In conclusion, I consider your overall health excellent.”