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Dwight Eisenhower's Heart Attack

Prior to becoming President, General Dwight D. Eisenhower had been a heavy smoker. He began smoking cigarettes at West Point, and his habit increased so that he often smoked two or three packs a day. A famous photograph taken prior to D-Day shown him having a smoke with some of the soldiers who would go into combat the following day, and there are many other photos of Ike with a cigarette in his hand. Eisenhower stated that he gave himself "an order" to stop smoking, cold turkey, in March of 1949. He was President of Columbia University at the time and by then he was up to four packs a day. He was probably the first president to release information about his health and medical records while in office.

IkeSmoking

On September 24, 1955 (60 years ago today), while vacationing in Colorado, Eisenhower had a serious heart attack. President had taken a vacation in Denver, Colorado and complained of stomach pains following a round of golf. That night after dinner with his wife and doctor, he had more complaints. The doctor had left the dinner unconcerned, but as the evening progressed, Eisenhower's distress became worse. His wife Mamie drove him by car to Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora just after 2 a.m. on September 24. He had suffered a myocardial infarction. For the next seven weeks he remained on the eighth floor of Fitzsimons Hospital.



While Eisenhower remained hospitalized in Colorado, Vice-President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and Chief of Staff Sherman Adams assumed administrative duties and provided communication with the President. Eisenhower was treated by Dr. Paul Dudley White, a prominent cardiologist with a national reputation. Dr. White regularly held press conferences at which he informed the media about the President's progress. The incident happened a year ahead of the 1956 Presidential election and many speculated that Ike's health would be too poor for him to serve a second term. But remarkably, Dr. White told the media that rather than eliminating Eisenhower as a candidate for a second term as President, he was recommending that Ike serve a second term and said that this was essential to his recovery.

Eisenhower did run for and win a second term as President. But he suffered further health problems while in office. As a consequence of his heart attack, Eisenhower developed a left ventricular aneurysm, which was attributed to be the cause of a mild stroke that the President suffered on November 25, 1957. This incident occurred during a cabinet meeting when Eisenhower suddenly found himself unable to speak or move his right hand. The stroke had caused an aphasia (a loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain trauma.)

Eisenhower also suffered from Crohn's disease, which is a chronic inflammatory condition of the intestine. This problem necessitated surgery for a bowel obstruction on June 9, 1956. To treat the intestinal block, surgeons bypassed about ten inches of his small intestine. His scheduled meeting with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was postponed so he could recover from surgery at his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Eisenhower was still recovering from this operation during the Suez Crisis.

During a visit to England he complained of dizziness and had to have his blood pressure checked on August 29, 1959, but this may have been caused by overindulgence in alcohol. His doctor General Howard Snyder recalled Eisenhower "drank several gin-and-tonics, and one or two gins on the rocks and three or four wines with the dinner".



The last three years of Eisenhower's second term in office were ones of relatively good health. But after leaving the White House, he suffered several more heart attacks. A severe heart attack in August 1965 largely ended his participation in public affairs. In August 1966 Eisenhower he began to show symptoms of cholecystitis, for which he underwent surgery on December 12, 1966, when his gallbladder was removed, containing 16 gallstones. Eisenhower suffered a total of seven heart attacks from 1955 until his death. On the morning of March 28, 1969, at the age of 78, Eisenhower died in Washington, D.C. of congestive heart failure at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

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