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A medical look at what killed all the presidents

In this video, Mikhail Varshavski, DO, known as “Dr. Mike” on social media, takes a trip through history to see what caused the death of each US President.

The following is a partial transcript of the video (note that there may be errors):

Varshavsky: There have been 45 presidents in the history of the United States, and at the time of uploading this video, 39 of them have died. Today I’m talking about what killed all the presidents and the strange circumstances surrounding many of their deaths, including four murders and top-secret surgery aboard a fishing boat. God bless America and peewoop!

George Washington was assassinated by his doctors. That’s what I think anyway. In 1799, then-retired President Washington developed a sore throat. His condition worsened over the next few days, despite the efforts of several doctors. Of course, in 1799, medical treatment was sorely lacking as doctors often believed that the best way to treat ailments was to balance the humors, meaning they would balance the amount of blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile within. of the body.

Character from “SpongeBob SquarePants”: That makes no sense.

Varshavsky: Over the course of several days, doctors drained Washington of 32 ounces of his blood, gave him blisters in his throat, forced him to vomit, and filled him with enemas. No wonder: Washington passed away after several days of this medieval torture. I wonder if Washington would have lived longer if he had hydrated well and maybe had a Z-Pak. [azithromycin].

John Adams lived to be 90, the longest-living president until Ronald Reagan, when he died of heart failure likely related to atherosclerosis, a blockage of the arteries due to plaque buildup that usually occurs with old age or poor lifestyle habits. . Interestingly, Adams died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years to the day he signed the Declaration of Independence, and only 5 hours after Thomas Jefferson, who died on the same day.

Character from “South Park”: Boo, creepy.

Varshavsky: His cause of death is inconclusive, but was likely due to a variety of things, including diarrhea, kidney damage, and an enlarged, possibly cancerous, prostate.

America’s shortest president at just 5ft 4, James Madison lived to be 85 when he died of congestive heart failure, where the heart’s ability to pump blood is impaired, causing fluid to build up throughout the body .

Although the specific details are not well recorded, James Monroe died in 1831 after a battle with tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that usually attacks the lungs. While he may have only been the fifth president of the United States, at the time of his death he joined Adams and Jefferson in becoming the third president to die on July 4. The fact that former presidents died on the 4th of July did not go unnoticed by the American people, and the trend became a mid-19th century meme.

John Quincy Adams served one term as president and then became the first to die in office, though not as president. You see, after losing the 1829 election, John Quincy Adams continued his public service by serving nine terms in Congress. At the age of 78, during a contentious debate on the Mexican-American War on the floor of the House of Representatives, Adams collapsed and suffered a significant stroke, where there is decreased circulation to the brain leading to neurological damage. . He died in his house 2 days later, but not before what should have been a spectacular emergency on Capitol Hill.

Andrew Jackson suffered a long, slow decline in health before he died at the age of 78. However, his cause of death has been widely disputed, with some attributing it to the use of the drug calomel. [mercurous chloride]leading to heavy metal poisoning, but JAMA states that he probably died of kidney failure with swelling throughout the body, known at the time as dropsy.

While it is not entirely certain what killed Martin Van Buren, many sources, including his obituary in the New York Times, cites problems that originate within your chest. His decline likely began with a long infection that led to cardiopulmonary failure.

Now things get interesting. William Henry Harrison delivered a 2-hour inaugural address in freezing drizzle without a coat or gloves, believed by many to be the cause of pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, that killed him just 1 month into office. In 1841, Germany had not been discovered.

Character from “Bob’s Burgers”: Germs, germs everywhere.

Varshavsky: Rather, doctors believed that the most effective medical treatments were, as with Washington, to balance the humors. Doctors blistered the president and made him drink substances that forced him to vomit and have diarrhea. Of course, none of those methods really worked. And so, William Henry Harrison remains our shortest-tenured president.

John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison and served the remainder of that term as president. Historians say he was never very healthy to begin with and died in 1862 of a stroke. He remains the only president in US history who was not buried with the Stars and Stripes, as he was a favorite of the Confederacy and was buried with his flag.

James K. Polk had grand visions of his life after the presidency, leaving Washington on tour of the southern US, hoping to end up in Nashville, where he had bought a large house. Unfortunately, Polk died 3 months after leaving office, the shortest post-presidential term in US history, of cholera, a diarrheal disease caused by drinking contaminated water.

Kids: uh yuck

Varshavsky: Zachary Taylor served a year in office before he died in what many would say are suspicious circumstances. To this day, many claim that he was poisoned by pro-slavery southerners. His cause of death was so controversial that in 1991 his descendants agreed to have his remains exhumed for testing, which did not find a high enough volume of arsenic within his remains to suggest poisoning. definitive. A more common theory is that he contracted cholera or dysentery after celebrating the 4th of July in Washington, DC, which at the time had primitive sewers, often resulting in the contamination of food and water.

Millard Fillmore is rumored to have been the White House’s first health-conscious president, avoiding alcohol and tobacco. He died of a stroke at the age of 74.

Franklin Pierce died at the age of 69 from cirrhosis of the liver, likely due to a lifetime of heavy drinking. Alcohol abuse damages the liver directly as ethanol is a toxin, leading to massive inflammation and swelling in the intestine.

James Buchanan is considered by many to be the worst president in the history of the United States, as he did nothing to preserve the Union before handing over a country divided by slavery to Abraham Lincoln.

Character “Friends”: You are useless.

Varshavsky: Information about his death is very scant, with most reports stating that he died at the age of 77 from pneumonia.

Abraham Lincoln, pistol. Next. It’s a joke. Although the death of Abraham Lincoln is probably the best known on this list, it is not without intrigue. Just 5 days after the Union victory in the Civil War, famed actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth snuck into Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC, and fired a single-shot derringer pistol. 44 directly into the rear of the Lincoln. head just a few inches away. Lincoln immediately slipped into a coma and died across the street 7 hours later.

This we know, but here are the juicy details that are often overlooked. The President’s personal physician, Dr. Robert Stone, who is how we know that Dr. Stone did nothing to help the situation by using his finger to probe the wound and look for the bullet, putting unnecessary pressure inside the President’s brain at his most vulnerable moment. Look, he was going to die no matter what they did, but a dirty, gloveless finger inside the brain probably didn’t help.

Mike Varshavski, DO, is a board certified family doctor and social media influencer with over 10 million subscribers.


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