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President Taft's Blood Pressure

      To the Editor: In their review of blood pressure measurement in the August 2006 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, O'Rourke and Seward
      • O'Rourke MF
      • Seward JB
      Central arterial pressure and arterial pressure pulse: new views entering the second century after Korotkov.
      included the 1935-1945 blood pressure record of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as an early example of cuff sphygmomanometry. However, Roosevelt was not the first president in whom extreme hypertension was measured. In either October 1910 or January 1914, Dr James Marsh Jackson of Boston, Mass, found that President William Howard Taft's “blood pressure was 210.”
      • Sotos JG
      Taft and Pickwick: sleep apnea in the White House.

      William Howard Taft papers, Library of Congress. Letter from Taft to Dr. George Blumer. January 18, 1914.

      Taft's editorial comment on this number was “Whew!”(Figure 1).

      William Howard Taft papers, Library of Congress. Letter from Taft to Dr. George Blumer. January 18, 1914.

      Figure thumbnail gr1
      FIGURE 1Letter from President William Howard Taft regarding his blood pressure.
      In 1910, Taft was just under 6 ft tall, weighed 330 lb (148.5 kg), and had severely symptomatic sleep apnea. At that time, Dr Jackson thought that Taft's heart was “weakened” and “in a very bad state.”
      • Sotos JG
      Taft and Pickwick: sleep apnea in the White House.
      By December 1911, an aide noticed that “he pants for breath at every step.”
      • Sotos JG
      Taft and Pickwick: sleep apnea in the White House.
      After leaving the presidency in March 1913, Taft permanently lost 60 to 70 lb (27-31.5 kg) in 12 months. His sleep apnea resolved, but he developed atrial fibrillation.
      • Sotos JG
      Taft and Pickwick: sleep apnea in the White House.
      His blood pressure was 172/115 mm Hg in 1922

      William Howard Taft papers, Library of Congress. Letter from Taft to Dr. George Blumer, January 2, 1923.

      and 160 to 165/100 mm Hg in 1926.

      William Howard Taft papers, Library of Congress. Letter from Taft to Dr. Thomas Claytor, August 1, 1926.

      Thus, in contrast to Roosevelt's curious indifference to health, Taft actively engaged his most serious health problem, his weight. Also in contrast to Roosevelt, Taft lived for 17 years after leaving the White House. He had the most distinguished postpresidential career in history, becoming Chief Justice of the United States in 1923.

      REFERENCES

        • O'Rourke MF
        • Seward JB
        Central arterial pressure and arterial pressure pulse: new views entering the second century after Korotkov.
        Mayo Clin Proc. 2006; 81: 1057-1068
        • Sotos JG
        Taft and Pickwick: sleep apnea in the White House.
        Chest. 2003; 124: 1133-1142
      1. William Howard Taft papers, Library of Congress. Letter from Taft to Dr. George Blumer. January 18, 1914.

      2. William Howard Taft papers, Library of Congress. Letter from Taft to Dr. George Blumer, January 2, 1923.

      3. William Howard Taft papers, Library of Congress. Letter from Taft to Dr. Thomas Claytor, August 1, 1926.