The White House has announced that United States President Joe Biden uses a continuous positive airway pressure machine, or CPAP, to deal with sleep apnea.
The disclosure comes as reporters noted indents on Biden’s face on Wednesday as he prepared to fly to Chicago, Illinois, for a major speech on his economic policy.
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Faced with questions about the facial marks — which indicated the president had been wearing a mask of some kind — White House officials said that Biden had recently begun using a CPAP machine to improve his sleep quality.
“Since 2008, the president has disclosed his history with sleep apnea in thorough medical reports. He used a CPAP machine last night, which is common for people with that history,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said.
The incident, however, could contribute to concerns about Biden’s age. At 80 years old, he is the oldest president in US history, and if he successfully seeks reelection in 2024, he would be 86 by the time his second term ends.
Critics have said that such concerns are overblown and that Biden’s health remains solid, although surveys show voters have consistently expressed concerns about his age.
Biden’s Republican rivals have also seized on his age as a campaign issue.
Former President Donald Trump — who is only a few years younger at age 77 — has nicknamed Biden “Sleepy Joe”. And former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has said it is not “likely” Biden “would make it until 86 years old”.
Both Haley and Trump are hopefuls in the 2024 presidential race.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder characterised by short breathing interruptions during rest and can result in fatigue, high blood pressure and heart problems.
Approximately 30 million people in the US have the condition, and 8 million use CPAP machines, which deliver a continuous stream of air into a mask worn while sleeping.
In February, Biden’s doctor said he was “fit for duty” following a physical examination. The doctor’s report did not mention sleep apnea but said that Biden had dealt with sinus congestion for “most of his life”, with improvements made after a series of nasal surgeries.
Still, Biden’s gaffes and slip-ups often stir questions about his health in the media.
On Wednesday morning, Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “losing the war in Iraq”, though he meant to say “Ukraine”, a soundbite that once again sparked questions about his age and mental acuity.