Oct 5, 2020 | Historical Data
Length of life and cause of death of U.S. presidents 1799-2020
Since 1789, the United States has had 44 different men serve as president, of which five are still alive today (officially there have been 45 presidents, as Grover Cleveland is counted twice). The life expectancy of U.S. presidents is just under 72 years; incumbent president Donald Trump is currently 74 years old, while Democratic candidate Joe Biden would be 78 at the time of his inauguration, if he were to win the 2020 election. Eight presidents have died while in office, including four who were assassinated by gunshot, and four who died of natural causes. The president who died at the youngest age was John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated at 46 years old in Texas in 1963; Kennedy was also the youngest man ever elected to the office of president. The longest living president in history is Jimmy Carter, who celebrated his 96th birthday on October 1, and the youngest currently-living president is Barack Obama, who will turn sixty in August 2021. The most recent death of a president occurred in 2018, when George H. W. Bush (the oldest ever president at the time) passed away after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. The most common cause of death for U.S. presidents is via a heart attack, heart failure or cardiovascular disease; one quarter of all U.S. presidents have died due to these causes, most recently, Gerald R. Ford, who passed away due to cardiovascular disease in 2006. A further eight presidents have passed away due to a stroke, including Richard Nixon, who died in 1994.
The U.S.' first president, George Washington, died after developing a severe inflammation of the throat, which modern scholars suspect to have been epiglottitis; however, many suspect that it was the treatments used to treat this illness that ultimately led to his death. After spending a prolonged period in cold and wet weather, Washington fell ill and ordered his doctor to let one pint of blood from his body. As his condition deteriorated, his doctors removed a further four pints in an attempt to cure him (the average human has between eight and twelve pints of blood in their body). Washington passed away within two days of his first symptoms showing, leading many to believe that this was due to medical malpractice and not due to the inflammation in his throat. Bloodletting was one of the most common and accepted medical practices from ancient Egyptian and Greek times until the nineteenth century, when doctors began to realize how ineffective it was; today, it is only used to treat extremely rare conditions, and its general practice is heavily discouraged.
Another rare and disputed cause of death for a U.S. president was that of Zachary Taylor, who died sixteen months into his first term in office. Taylor had been celebrating the Fourth of July in the nation's capital in 1850, where he began to experience stomach cramps after eating copious amounts of cherries, other fruits and iced milk. As his condition worsened, he drank a large amount of water in an attempt to alleviate his symptoms, but to no avail. Taylor died of gastroenteritis five days later, after being treated with a heavy dose of drugs and bloodletting. The most commonly accepted theories for his illness are that the ice used in the milk and the water consumed afterwards were contaminated with cholera, and that this was further exacerbated by the large amounts of acid in his from eating so much fruit. There are some suggestions that recovery was feasible, but the actions of his doctors had made this impossible. Additionally, there have been conspiracy theories suggesting that Taylor was poisoned by pro-slavery secessionists from the Southern States, although there appears to be no evidence to back this up.