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Earlier this week, high-ranking Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders endured a big health scare. On Tuesday, one of Sanders’ senior advisers said that the candidate went to the hospital with chest discomfort while on the campaign trail in Las Vegas. While hospitalized, doctors discovered that Sanders had a blockage in one of his arteries, and they inserted two stents into his heart to artificially open the artery.
On Friday, Sanders’ physicians said that his pain came from a myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack. The candidate’s new health struggles have some people asking: Is Bernie Sanders healthy enough to run for office?
To some, Sanders’ health scare may be unsurprising, as the 78-year-old candidate would be the oldest president if elected to office (current president Donald J. Trump now holds the record, as he was 70 years old upon his inauguration). However, Sanders’ campaign staff insist that the candidate is more than fit to run for office. In fact, they claim that merely hours after his surgery, he was making conversation with those around him as avidly and passionately as he’s long been known for. Sanders’ wife Jane said that Bernie plans to participate in the upcoming Democratic debates on October 15th.
Sanders’ physicians additionally insist that this health scare may have been a one-time problem. Arturo Marchand Jr. and Arjun Gururaj, the doctors who treated Sanders, said that all the candidate’s other arteries and heart functions appear normal. They also said that, with stents inserted in his previously clogged artery, Sanders is less likely to encounter additional heart problems. Sanders has been instructed to schedule a follow-up appointment with his primary care physician.
Nevertheless, Sanders’ health scare has reignited conversations about the average age of presidents and candidates. Sanders is only two years older than Joe Biden, the current leader in early Democratic polling. Additionally, candidate Elizabeth Warren, with whom some say Sanders is splitting the progressive vote, is 70 years old. By comparison, candidate Pete Buttigieg, who sometimes polls highly in prospective Democratic polls, is 37.
Presidential candidates have tended to err on the older side upon their inauguration, sometimes to the chagrin of voters. Of the 45 American presidents, 11 were 60 years of age or older upon their inauguration, with Trump being the one president inaugurated at age 70 (though Ronald Reagan was just 17 days short of 70 upon his inauguration). Of course, old age can lead to health problems, which in turn can be made more serious by old age in a cyclical, often hazardous spiral. By comparison, 24 candidates were between 50 and 60 years old upon inauguration.
Sanders plans to address voters’ age and health concerns by releasing his health records sometime before the Democratic primaries. In a statement, Sanders said that American voters have the right to know how healthy their candidates are, because people may be hesitant to vote for someone who might not survive a full term. Just this past March, doctors gave Sanders a clean bill of health.