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President Has Enlarged Heart But Is Otherwise Healthy

March 22, 1996

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ President Nelson Mandela has high blood pressure and an enlarged heart but his doctors said Friday that he is otherwise healthy for a man his age.

Mandela, 77, was examined earlier this month amid rumors he was ill, perhaps with a heart problem. The rumors contributed to a fall in the value of the rand, the country’s currency.

Acknowledging interest in the health of a man widely considered key to the nation’s stability, Mandela’s office promised a full report.

According to South Africa’s Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Daniel Knobel, doctors found Mandela in good health.

``He is assessed as being physically fit for a man of his age and remarkably active as well as, of course, mentally astute,″ Knobel said in a two-page report issued Friday.

Knobel said the high blood pressure and related enlargement of the heart were discovered soon after Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. With medication, his blood pressure has been reduced and Mandela shows no signs of arterial disease, Knobel said.

Dr. Michael Plit, Mandela’s personal physician, said the president’s blood pressure is 140 over 85, normal for a man his age. It had been 200 over 100, Plit said.

Doctors sometimes advise patients with enlarged hearts to cut down on exercise and avoid stress, but Mandela’s condition was not considered that serious, Plit said in an interview.

``He exercises very aggressively in the mornings, and that is encouraged,″ Plit said. ``There are no limits on his activities at all.″

In addition to medication for high blood pressure, Mandela is taking medication for two cysts in his liver _ one found in 1984 and a smaller one recently detected. Doctors say the cysts are caused by a parasite and are not dangerous.

Mandela spent 27 years in prison before he was freed to negotiate an end to South Africa’s apartheid system of white minority rule. The process culminated in 1994 with his election in the nation’s first multi-racial vote.

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