The White House today again confirmed reports that President Bush has a slow heart rate but the president's physician said the condition is not abnormal and is not a threat to Bush's health.
The administration was prompted to discuss Bush's health after a radio station in Pasadena, Calif., reported that the president has sinus bradycardia, a heart rate that is slower than the average person's. The condition could make Bush more prone to fainting spells when he gags or chokes, the station reported.
Public scrutiny over Bush's health grew following the recent incident where he briefly fainted after choking on a pretzel.
Dr. Richard Tubb, the White House physician, told ABCNEWS medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson that he is not concerned with Bush's slow heart rate. Tubb said Bush has had the condition for more than 10 years without symptoms and his electrocardiograms show no abnormalities. Plus, other heart studies done on the president, such as exercise tests and ultrasound, have been normal, Tubb said.
Bush is also a highly conditioned athlete, according to Tubb, with a pulse rate consistent with that level of conditioning.
Tubb said for years Bush has had a resting heart rate in the low-to-mid 40s. A heart rate is not considered low until it is under 60.
In someone who is not as conditioned as the president, Johnson said a heart rate in the 40s might be cause for concern. But in someone who is in good shape and has no other heart abnormalities or symptoms, it is not considered a problem.
The report from radio station KPCC said that until now the White House "has not volunteered and the media has not reported that the president's slow heart rate is due to a heart arrhythmia called sinus bradycardia." But there is some question whether the use of "arrhythmia," usually used to denote an abnormal rhythm, is correct.
Johnson said that Bush's medical history does not suggest this is an "abnormal" rate for him.