Washington, Nov 7 : The stress of campaigning has left U.S. President-elect Barack Obama looking older than his actual age, say reports.
A website, which runs a program called Realage.com, reckoned that Obama, who is 47 years and 3 months old, is actually 49 years and 8 months old in "true age".
Obama, who has been campaigning for two years, has been leading a stressful life, which has left him with crow's feet and smile lines that belie his age.
He has been campaigning non-stop day-to-day, hour-to-hour, flying to different states and sleeping in different time zones, plus fighting off the typical character attacks and mudslinging that any candidate for office faces.
Obama further had to face the death of his grandmother, who had been suffering from cancer, and a woman he credits for helping to raise him, on the eve of the election. The website claims that it calculates a person's "true age" based on a number of factors, which includes how often you visit your doctor, what your vital signs are, how often you exercise, what you eat, what your extracurricular activities are, and how much stress you have in your life.
In Obama's case, he is known to smoke now and then, he's a middle aged African American standing at 6-foot-1, weighing 160 pounds, and even though he was given a clean bill of health by his doctor earlier this year, his blood pressure, which is 90/60, is extremely low.
"There's really no way to tell biological age," Fox News quoted Dr. Marc Siegel as saying.
"The graying that's developed around his ears ... is that a sign he's aging? Maybe. George Bush certainly looks older. And Clinton was surviving on a junk-food diet and needed a heart operation after he left office.
"We know that stress is not only acute, but also chronic.
"It's cumulative. It wears you down. If there's an increase of stress hormones over time, there's also an increased rate of disease. The combination of stress and smoking is distressing for Obama. But he's thin, he's robust and seems to be in good shape," he said.
Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist said stress causes lapses in memory and other mental impairments.
"I would tell anybody, whether they are an entrepreneur or politician, that you can incur a debt if you go short on sleep for weeks or months or longer," he said.
"You can come to a place where your short-term memory is impaired, attention span and judgment is impaired. That said, we'd expect someone who captures the nation's highest office would have a plan to manage that kind of schedule and deficits," he stated.
Ablow also said a lack of sleep can cause mood swings, irritability and reduced fluency with language. It can also cause speech patterns to change.
"The other side of this is the tremendous side that fuels you," he said.
"The motivation and elation weigh in on performance and function. [Obama] is probably running on adrenaline right now. Whatever stress he had before is resolved. He's been elected. He feels relief," he added.
"We really don't know how much of Obama's momentum is driven by adrenaline," Siegel said.
"Everyone's different so you also have to take into consideration how high your adrenaline level is compared to your cortisol level," he added.
But even though stress can cause a lot of damage to your system, it can also be pushed back or done away with.
"He has to exercise," Siegel said.
"It's a boring answer, I know, but it increases the positive hormones in your brain, the anti-stress hormones in the brain, and triggers a physiological response to offset stress," he added.
Siegel and Ablow said Obama also must try, hard as it may be, to get back to life as usual.
"His physical and psychological well-being depends on level of exercise, diet, genetics and outlook on life," Ablow said.
Ablow also issued a warning that Obama's health could suffer if he goes back to smoking.
"The biggest health risk for Barack Obama is whether he returns to smoking. That may have been how he handled things in the past. Hopefully it isn't how he handles it in the future," he added.