Over the long term, however, “older patients are at higher risk of recurrent cardiac events after a heart attack,” said Dr. Christopher P. Cannon, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “But Mr. Sanders appears to have few cardiac risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.” He pointed to data from a series of his team’s published studies that showed a one-in-five chance within five years after a first heart attack that a second one, or even stroke or death, might occur.
But such population-based statistics provide general odds and cannot necessarily be applied to an individual.
“Very few illnesses would preclude someone from holding high office,” said Dr. Jonathan S. Reiner, a cardiologist at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, who treated Mr. Cheney for serious heart disease for many years before, during and after his two terms in office. “But the public has a right to know the salient details because the ailment or treatment can affect how the candidate performs in office.”
Although there are legal protections to keep health information confidential, most candidates seeking the presidency in recent years have responded to the public demand to know and have waived that privilege.
“The public should have sufficient facts to understand the magnitude of the event and the near- and long-term prognosis for the candidate,” Dr. Reiner said. “Mr. Sanders’s campaign has released too few details to understand the medical impact of the heart attack on his health.” Not all heart attacks, for example, are of the same dimension.
Like Mr. Sanders, three other presidential candidates are also septuagenarians. Mr. Biden will be 77 next month and Ms. Warren is 70. All three have said they will release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses that begin in February, although Mr. Sanders’s incident last week may push his top rivals to disclose their records sooner.
Then there is President Trump, who is 73. He has not said whether he would release any health information before or after his third presidential medical checkup, which is expected in early 2020. While presidents are not required to have medical checkups or release findings if they have one, Mr. Trump released a detailed summary after his first presidential exam and a less detailed one after his second, earlier this year.