Ariel Sharon, who suffered a mild stroke less than a week ago, has cholesterol and blood pressure levels that are astonishingly normal for a man of his weight and age, his doctor said today after an Israeli newspaper revealed some of his medical records for the first time.
Sharon’s love of fatty foods apparently hasn’t thrown off his most important health statistics. Tests taken three weeks before Sharon’s stroke showed his blood pressure at 120 over 80, and his overall cholesterol level at 195 – both completely normal.
The 77-year-old Israeli prime minister has long refused to release his medical records, but a sampling of them appeared today in the Yediot Ahronot daily. Sharon’s personal physician and a senior Sharon aide confirmed the records were authentic.
“It’s very unexpected and very very unusual,” said Boleslaw Goldman, who has been Sharon’s doctor for the past three decades, said of the healthy statistics. Goldman said that Sharon takes no medication for cholesterol or blood pressure, which in people as obese as Sharon are generally high.
Sharon’s doctors and aides will not reveal the five-foot-seven leader’s weight.
Goldman said Sharon’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels must be due to strong genes.
Sharon has been ordered by doctors, and strongly urged by world leaders, to go on a diet, but aides said he has not yet decided whether to change his eating habits. Sharon’s appetite is legendary, and his favourite meal is “meat in every way,” Sharon aide Asaf Shariv said this week.
His stroke left no lasting damage, doctors said, but it raised questions about his health as he prepared to run for a third term in office as head of his new centrist Kadima party.
Because of his about-face from hawk to pragmatist in recent months, many Israelis now see Sharon as their best hope for reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians. Since the stroke, commentators have lamented Israel’s dependence on Sharon, noting that his death or incapacitation would likely be devastating.
“At this point in time, Sharon has become the kind of leader who is irreplaceable,” wrote columnist Yoel Marcus in today’s Haaretz daily.
Mini-strokes like the one Sharon suffered last weekend, though rarely of major consequence by themselves, signal a high risk of a full-blown stroke within months: one in seven with a year, according to the American Heart Association.
But Goldman said Sharon is largely free of the main risk factors for stroke: high cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. He said he didn’t think Sharon’s weight was a “direct reason” for the minor stroke.
Goldman said that through the years, Sharon has questioned the need to go on a diet by citing his healthy statistics. The stroke, however, may serve as a wake-up call, Goldman said.
“He promised to lose weight and to try to rest during day for half hour or so,” the doctor said. “But in Israel to be a prime minister is not an easy job.”
Goldman added that Sharon might have to re-enter the hospital in the coming weeks for a procedure that would involve improving the blood flow in his heart for a condition Sharon “probably has had since the day he was born.”
Goldman would not elaborate, except to describe the procedure as “very minor.”
Yedioth described the procedure in Hebrew as a “tzintur” – which in English can mean angiogram or angioplasty, which are used to diagnose and clear clogged coronary arteries.