Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, goes the English saying. President Barack Obama certainly knows what that statement means. Photos of Obama when he took oath of office in 2008 and now show how the office of President takes a heavy physical toll.
Official portraits of Obama when he took office in 2008 show a youthful looking man with glossy black hair and smooth face. Only four years later, he looks like he has aged fifteen years with graying hair and wrinkled skin.
The Daily Mail, however, reports that Obama's doctors say that in spite of his weathered looks, he is in good physical condition. The president is known to maintain a rigorous daily exercise regimen in spite of his crowded daily schedule. He reportedly runs on a treadmill, shoots the hoops and enjoys weight training.
According to The Washington Post, Connie Mariano, White House physician from 1992 to 2001, said: "You look at the picture when they’re (US presidents) inaugurated and four years later, they’re visibly older. It’s like they went in a time machine and fast-forwarded eight years in the span of four years."
Official portrait US Government
Official portraits of Obama 2009 (left); 2012 (right)
Most physicians agree that the reason why presidents age rapidly in office is extreme and constant stress.
Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project
Barack Obama, the 54th President of the United States of America
The Washington Post reports that Ronan Factora, a physician who specializes in geriatric medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, said that a few stressful events in life may not produce any visible effect. However, anyone subjected to constant and intense physical and emotional stress over an appreciable period of time will notice his skin becoming "thinner, muscles beginning to waste away and the immune system gradually weakening and losing its ability to protect the body from viruses. "
Buddy Longway/Flickr Creative Commons
President Obama shoots hoops on Martha's Vineyard.
Other recent US Presidents have shown evidence of the ageing side-effect of office. The Daily Mail points out that President George W. Bush, for instance, appears in his 2001 official portrait with smooth cheeks, a fine complexion and vigorous youthful looks. But by the end of his second term, after having passed through the storms of 9/11, Iran and Afghanistan, he looked tired, used, worn and aged, with his face deeply line as though with the creases of permanent worrying expression.
President Obama deep thinking
Photo courtesy the White House
President Obama reflecting at a meeting.
His father George H. W. Bush, also reportedly went through the same transformation, only after a single term in office. Perhaps one of the most drastic examples in recent times is Bill Clinton, who came to office with charming, boyish, lady-killer looks and left the worse for wear, with prominent bags under his eyes, as though he suffered insomnia all through the years in office.
The White House/flickr
President Barack Obama.
Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the most drastic cases in history. The Washington Post reports:
While abstemious in an era when other statesmen chain-smoked cigars, Abraham Lincoln saw his legendary strength dwindle. At the start, the hale president was an able horseman who wrestled soldiers and challenged them to strength tests...
By the time of his death, the president had been wracked by insomnia and lost interest in food. He arrived at the White House as a sinewy 6-foot-4, 180-pound strongman. In the course of four years, he dropped 30 pounds. “He was sunken-eyed and grizzled, nothing like that bright-eyed lawyer of Springfield,” said Von Drehle. Lincoln sat for a famous series of portraits, and “by the last set of photographs, he looks 75 years old, but he’s 56.”
The Daily Mail reports that on January 12, Obama had a fitness test. The results will be released soon. But a previous physical fitness test in October 2011 showed that he was in good physical shape.