(CNN)German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she’s taking care of health after experiencing her third bout of shaking in public in less than a month.
But she gave no further detail, doing little to put to rest speculation about what’s been affecting her. It’s perhaps no surprise the world’s most powerful female politician caught on camera visibly trembling has stirred up a media frenzy, but do people have the right to know about a leader’s health and medical details? Angela Merkel Fast Facts“You can be sure that, firstly, I am aware of the responsibilities that come with my office and that I behave appropriately as far as my health is concerned,” Merkel said Thursday after meeting with new Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. “And secondly you can also know that as a person I have a keen interest in being healthy and I take care of my health.”Read MoreMerkel and her doctors might not even know yet what it is, said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. Merkel may have recently noticed symptoms and still be in an evaluation process that involves trying different medications.One possibility is orthostatic tremor, a rare condition that’s primarily present when someone is standing, Gupta said. It’s more common among women, and typically diagnosed in people around Merkel’s age, 64. Treatment can involve muscle relaxers or medications used to treat seizures. Unlike Parkinson’s and some other conditions that cause tremors, it’s not something that ultimately leads to increasing disability. With orthostatic tremor, “if they are sitting, if they are walking, if they are moving, that tremor seems to go away,” Gupta said.Video from Thursday showed Merkel using a chair, rather than standing, during military honors for Denmark’s leader.German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center right, and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, sit on chairs as they listen to the national anthems on Thursday.Privacy valuedIn Germany, which has strict privacy laws, many are willing to take Merkel’s explanations at face value. Merkel's shaking sends world's media into a frenzy. It could mark a new start for Germany“It’s not like the US where people think they have all kinds of rights to information about the President or presidential candidates. It’s a less personalized system of government,” said Volker Best, a researcher at the University of Bonn’s Institute of Political Science and Sociology. “I also think people are trusting Merkel to know when it’s time; if there were real health problems she’s a politician that would admit them and take the right action. She would not cling on to power,” he added. Merkel’s long tenure as Germany’s leader is set to come to end in the next two years. She has said she only intends to complete her current term and has ruled out running for any political office after 2021. Unlike the United States, there’s no equivalent to a White House physician nor are details from formal medical exams released to the public, Best said. “In Germany there are no laws that force politicians to disclose their health status,” Best said. A chance to restGermany’s parliament is set to go on recess on July 19, which Best says will give Merkel a chance to rest and, unless another shaking bout occurs, the topic will likely disappear from the headlines. Susanne Michl, a junior professor in medical humanities and ethics in medicine, at the Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine in Berlin, said that, in theory, political leaders should disclose the cause of any incapacity that stops them from doing their job.However, “I think even then it’s a privacy issue. You have to more or less wait until a leader would say I’m not able to do my business,” she said.”In the case of Angela Merkel, she is in good shape, she hasn’t canceled anything. I think the shaking isn’t an issue for her to tell people what her doctors have told (her about it.)” Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to delegates of her political party, the Christian Democratic Union, in February 2018.Hide Caption 1 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel was born in Hamburg, West Germany, in 1954, but she grew up in East Germany. Her father, Horst Kasner, was a Lutheran minister and her mother, Herlind, was an English teacher.Hide Caption 2 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel, left, attends a New Year’s Eve party with friends in Berlin in 1972. In 1977, at the age of 23, she married her first husband, Ulrich Merkel. They divorced in 1982, but she kept the name.Hide Caption 3 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel poses with her siblings, Marcus and Irene Kasner.Hide Caption 4 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel visits a children’s home during her campaign to become a member of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, in 1990. Before turning to politics, Merkel had trained as a physician. She was also a spokeswoman for the “Democratic Awakening,” East Germany’s opposition movement before reunification.Hide Caption 5 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelA month after being elected to the Bundestag, Merkel was appointed to Germany’s Cabinet in January 1991. Chancellor Helmut Kohl named her Minister for Women and Youth.Hide Caption 6 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel looks at Kohl during a conference of the Christian Democratic Union, their political party, in 1991. At the time, Merkel was a deputy chairwoman for the party.Hide Caption 7 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel changed Cabinet positions in 1994, becoming Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. Here, she visits a water-control station in Bad Honnef, Germany, in 1995.Hide Caption 8 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel, as the country’s leader on environmental issues, irons wrapping paper to show how it can be recycled.Hide Caption 9 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel and Health Minister Horst Seehofer attend a Cabinet meeting in 1995.Hide Caption 10 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel sits in a “strandkorb,” or beach basket, in an undated photo. In 2000, Merkel became the Christian Democratic Union’s first female chairperson. It was the opposition party at the time.Hide Caption 11 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel, left, attends the opening of the Wagner Festival, an annual music festival in Bayreuth, Germany, in 2001.Hide Caption 12 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel spends part of her summer in Langballig, Germany, in 2002.Hide Caption 13 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2002, one of many meetings they would have over the years. Merkel speaks Russian fluently, while Putin speaks German.Hide Caption 14 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel speaks in Nuremberg, Germany, ahead of federal elections in 2005.Hide Caption 15 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel is sworn in as Germany’s first female chancellor in November 2005.Hide Caption 16 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel visits the White House in January 2006. A few days later she also visited the Kremlin in Russia.Hide Caption 17 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelUS President George W. Bush shows off a barrel of pickled herrings he was presented after arriving in Stralsund, Germany, in July 2006.Hide Caption 18 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel visits troops stationed in Turkey in February 2013. Later that year she was re-elected for a third term.Hide Caption 19 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, walk with US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama before a dinner in Berlin in June 2013. Merkel and Sauer have been married since 1998.Hide Caption 20 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel speaks to Obama on the sidelines of a G7 summit near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in June 2015.Hide Caption 21 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2015. Time Editor-at-Large Karl Vick described her as “the de factos leader of the European Union” by virtue of being leader of the EU’s largest and most economically powerful member state. Twice that year, he said, the EU had faced “existential crises” that Merkel had taken the lead in navigating — first the Greek debt crisis faced by the eurozone, and then the ongoing migrant crisis.Hide Caption 22 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel and Obama test a virtual-reality headset at a trade fair in Hanover, Germany, in April 2016.Hide Caption 23 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel and US President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference at the White House in March 2017.Hide Caption 24 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel raises her glass during a toast at the Trudering Festival in Munich, Germany, in May 2017.Hide Caption 25 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel records her annual televised New Year’s address in December 2017.Hide Caption 26 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelIn this photo provided by the German Government Press Office, Merkel talks with Trump as they are surrounded by other leaders at the G7 summit in June 2018. According to two senior diplomatic sources, the photo was taken when there was a difficult conversation taking place regarding the G7’s communique and several issues the United States had leading up to it.Hide Caption 27 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel attends a Bundestag session in June 2018. She pressed lawmakers to back a tough but humane asylum and migration policy for the European Union.Hide Caption 28 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelIn this handout photo provided by the German Government Press Office in July 2018, Merkel meets a newborn calf during a visit to the Trede family dairy farm in Nienborstel, Germany.Hide Caption 29 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel offers flowers to Volker Bouffier, the state premier of Hesse and the deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, ahead of a party leadership meeting in October 2018. The day before, her coalition government suffered heavy losses in a key regional election in Hesse.Hide Caption 30 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel speaks at a debate on the future of Europe during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, in November 2018. Merkel made a call for a future European army and for a European Security Council that would centralize defense and security policy on the continent.Hide Caption 31 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel touches the scepter of a Carnival prince during the annual Carnival reception in Berlin in February 2019.Hide Caption 32 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel poses for photos with students as she visits a secondary school in Berlin in April 2019.Hide Caption 33 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel talks with European Council President Donald Tusk and British Prime Minister Theresa May at a roundtable meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in April 2019. May was in Brussels to formally present her case for a short Brexit delay.Hide Caption 34 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelBritain’s Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prime Minister Theresa May, greets Merkel in Portsmouth, England, in June 2019. It was ahead of an event marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.Hide Caption 35 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelMerkel and new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky inspect a military honor guard as he arrives for his first official visit to Germany in June 2019. Merkel was seen shaking during the ceremony, but she later suggested dehydration was to blame and said that she was doing “very well.”Hide Caption 36 of 37 Photos: In photos: The life and career of Angela MerkelThe hands of Merkel and Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne are seen as they listen to national anthems in Berlin in July 2019. Merkel’s body visibly shook again, raising concerns over her health. She said she was fine and that she has been “working through some things” since she was first seen shaking in June.Hide Caption 37 of 37Former German Chancellor: ‘I was probably found a hundred times unconscious’ Historically, politicians in Germany, like elsewhere, have not been keen to admit to health problems. Chancellor Willy Brandt resigned in May 1974, after his close aide was unmasked as an East German spy, but he was also said to suffer from recurrent depression that he kept concealed. Best said that historians thought that was a factor in his decision to go. What should we have the right to know about a president's health?Helmut Schmidt, who was Chancellor from 1974 to 1982, said he had regular fainting spells that were kept secret, according to Germany news agency DPA. “I was probably found a hundred times unconscious. Mostly only a few seconds, sometimes minutes. We have successfully kept that secret — and it has not stopped me from doing my duty as head of government,” Schmidt said in a 2014 interview. In the US, Presidents and presidential hopefuls have gone to great lengths to be seen as healthy and vibrant, with signs of weakness often pounced on by opponents. At age 43, John F. Kennedy, was the youngest person elected President. But he took office struggling with hypothyroidism, back pain and Addison’s disease, and was on a daily dose of steroids as well as a host of other drugs, although few people knew at the time. Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter
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Ronald Reagan announced in 1994, after his presidency, that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Whether it affected his ability to function while in office is a subject of debate. Though doctors were in the dark then, today, medical science knows that Alzheimer’s begins in the brain 20 to 30 years before symptoms begin.Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s near fainting spell during the 2016 election campaign was seized on by her opponents. And concerns over President Donald Trump’s mental and physical health have dogged his presidency, with his fast food habits, lack of exercise, age and weight all coming under scrutiny.But admitting to health issues need not derail a politician’s career. In the UK, outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has been open about having to inject herself with insulin up to five times a day to treat her diabetes.May has type 1 diabetes and urged fellow sufferers not to allow the illness to hold them back from doing what they want in life.