France's Sarkozy leaves hospital after heart check

PARIS, France Sarkozy, dressed in a dark suit and tie, walked hand-in-hand with his wife, Carla, from Val de Grace military hospital to his car. He smiled and shook hands with white-clad medical personnel but declined any comment.

Medical tests Monday on Sarkozy's heart showed no signs of irregular heartbeat and no long term consequences for the president's heart. Doctors diagnosed Sarkozy with "lipothymic" discomfort due to overexertion at high temperatures in a "context of fatigue linked to a large workload," a statement from the president's office said.

"A lipothymic incident is not a diagnosis, it is a symptom," Gabriel Steg, a professor of cardiology at Paris' Bichat Hospital, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It's a sensation of fainting that corresponds with a variety of illnesses and causes, many of which are very common and banal but which also can be serious in certain cases."

However, Steg said the incident appeared "benign" and was common among people who seriously engaged in physical activities. Tests showed no neurological or metabolic consequences, the statement also said, adding that Sarkozy suffered no "loss of consciousness," contradicting earlier reports from senior French officials.

Sarkozy left the hospital at midmorning; it was unclear where he went.

All of Sarkozy's official activities Monday were canceled, and his trip Tuesday to Mont-Saint-Michel, a Gothic abbey perched on a rocky outcrop off the coast of Normandy, was postponed. Sarkozy was still expected to chair the regular Council of Ministers meeting Wednesday, before beginning a three-week long summer holiday on Thursday.

Sarkozy collapsed Sunday while jogging on the grounds of the Chateau of Versailles, halfway into his five-year term.

Military doctors quickly performed a battery of tests on Sarkozy, who is known for his sportiness and hectic schedule. The presidential Elysee Palace said Sarkozy's test results were normal but doctors decided to keep him overnight under cardiological observation.

"It's a little incident that could happen to anyone at some point in their life, above all ... to anyone who works a lot," said Patrick Devedjian, France's minister for economic recovery and a close friend of Sarkozy.

After his collapse Sunday, Sarkozy was rushed by helicopter to a military hospital.

Temperatures had reached 28 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) at Versailles on muggy Sunday afternoon.

Sarkozy, an avid jogger and cyclist, was forced to interrupt his run and "lie down with the help of an aide," the statement said. A presidential doctor who is with Sarkozy at all times sounded the alert and administered initial treatment.

Piotr Moszynski, a journalist, told France Info radio that he saw the French leader running with his bodyguards in the lush grounds of the Chateau de Versailles and that Sarkozy appeared sluggish.

"He looked really tired and was almost dragging his feet," Moszynski said. "I said to myself 'if he wants to show off, it wasn't very effective."'

Doctors at Val-de-Grace conducted neurological, blood and cardiological tests as well as an EEG -- an electroencephalogram. Sarkozy, ever mindful of his image, received close advisers Sunday to keep up on the news and rested.

Sarkozy was elected in 2007. He last underwent a medical examination July 3, when his cardiovascular and blood tests were normal, the Elysee's medical service said.

The first medical bulletin issued shortly after his 2007 election said Sarkozy's health was "good" and compatible with his presidential duties. Since his election, Sarkozy has maintained a frenetic pace, traveling the world and performing political activities, as well as divorcing his second wife and marrying his third, the former fashion model and singer Carla Bruni.

During his presidential campaign, Sarkozy pushed for greater transparency on presidential health bulletins, but his short hospital stay for a throat problem in 2007 was revealed only three months later.

Previous French presidents regularly concealed their health problems.

The French public learned that former President Georges Pompidou had bone marrow cancer only after he died of it, while in office, on April 2, 1974.

Former President Francois Mitterrand, who led France from 1981-95 and died of prostate cancer just months after leaving office, ordered his doctor to systematically falsify his health bulletins for 11 years.

Former President Jacques Chirac was hospitalized for a week at Val-de-Grace in 2005 for a vascular problem and officials never fully explained what was wrong.

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