Is good health relevant to our next president?
On three occasions, we’ve discussed in this column the issue about the health and physical fitness of candidates seeking major national positions:
It seems apt to write another rejoinder on the issue in light of the recent death of Rep. Roy Señeres, one of the presidential aspirants approved by the Comelec, and the sudden confinement of Mayor Rody Duterte for severe “migraine headache.”
Representative Señeres showed no indication of any life-threatening medical condition when he declared his candidacy several months ago. Apparently the physical and mental stress of the political campaign took a toll on his health and he succumbed to complications of diabetes a few weeks ago.
Several risk factors
That is usually the case if one has risk factors for heart attacks and strokes like diabetes, high-blood pressure, smoking, elevated cholesterol levels, and obesity. One may feel like he or she is in the pink of health, but if one has several risk factors and is already of senior age, he/she is considered high-risk for potentially life-threatening complications, which may come when one least expects it.
Hence, they’re considered as “walking time bombs” because anytime, they could just “explode” and succumb to a heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, or stroke. Because of a weakened resistance due to fatigue, lack of sleep and excessive stress, they can also develop severe infections which may also be equally life-threatening.
When Mayor Duterte suddenly canceled his speaking engagement during the joint annual convention of our medical societies (Philippine Society of Hypertension and Philippine Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society), a patient asked me if it signified anything serious. I replied that I was not in a position to know, and since he was back in harness a day after he had that “severe episode of migraine,” it could not have been due to a serious stroke.
However, there’s also what we call a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a so-called ministroke, which may have very similar symptoms to migraine headache—visual disturbances, nausea and vomiting, speech impairment, and muscle weakness.
In a TIA or ministroke, the symptoms can just be transient and the patient appears well after several minutes or hours. But it shouldn’t be treated as something benign, because it can just be a warning episode before the “big bang.” Patients with TIA are at risk to have a repeat stroke, and it can be a lot more serious the next time around.
So the big question remains unanswered: Did Mayor Duterte have a TIA, or was it just simple, benign migraine headache? If it’s really nothing that the public should be concerned about in someone they’re considering to run their country in the near future, then there should be no reason why Mayor Duterte should hesitate to allow his attending physician to disclose to the public his real medical condition, on the limp pretext that he’s not that stupid to allow it.
On the other hand, if he really had a TIA, and he is still considered by his physicians to be at risk to develop a more serious stroke if his risk factors are not adequately treated, the good mayor owes it to the public to disclose this potential liability and let them decide whether to entrust him the reins of running the government despite the health concern.
A major issue
As we’ve emphasized in our previous columns, it’s difficult to understand why politicians don’t seem to consider their health condition a major issue; and that ensuring the public of one’s good health is just as important as trumpeting their credentials and anything that can boost their image of being a competent candidate.
Public officials are supposed to disclose their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth annually, why should they not be required to disclose their health condition, which can actually be an asset or a liability. Are they saying their material assets and liabilities are far more important than their health condition, such that disclosing the latter does not have any relevance at all for someone who aspires to be president or vice president of the country?
They’re sending the wrong message to the public about how one should consider one’s health. Good health may not be everything; but without good health, everything else is nothing. Unhealthy and sickly leaders can never be good leaders.
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