Chew your pretzels – or else. This weekend the 43rd President overlooked this basic rule of couch potato life in America and alarmed an entire nation by fainting for a few seconds.
The first health scare of the George W Bush presidency occurred at about 5.30pm in private quarters at the White House as he was watching an American football game when, in his own words, "I hit the deck and woke up and there was Barney and Spot [his dogs] showing a lot of concern."
Later his personal physician, Dr Richard Tubb, said the brief spell of unconsciousness was brought about by failure to chew a pretzel properly. "It didn't seem to go down right," a rueful Mr Bush told his doctor.
A nurse was called at 5.40pm, and a few minutes later Dr Tubb arrived. Tests confirmed Mr Bush's heart was functioning normally. The only visible trace of the incident was an injury to his left cheek caused when he fell to the floor, crushing his glasses in the process.
Pretzels usually come as strands of hard baked dough, flecked with salt. Though not to everyone's taste, they are not considered a health hazard.
After hitting the deck, Mr Bush yesterday hitthe Midwest, apparently none the worse for wear. Aboard Air Force One, he even had a present and some advice for reporters travelling with him.
A jumbo bag of pretzels was sent back to the press pool, carrying a message scrawled in black ink: "From POTUS [President Of The United States] ... Chew slowly."
Later he invoked the ever-popular former first lady Barbara Bush in an address to factory workers. "Mother, I should have listened to you. Always chew your pretzels before you swallow them."
Paradoxically, Mr Bush's very healthiness may have contributed to the mishap. Rigorous exercise means he has low blood pressure and a slow heartbeat, a doctor's dream in most respects, but this makes him more vulnerable to fainting.
Apparently the President has a history of pretzel abuse. In November Newsweek magazine reported how, during an interview, "a pretzel went AWOL on the President and he started coughing." Laura Bush looked over at her husband, who had his hands clasped at his ribcage. Laughing, she said: "He's giving himself the Heimlich manoeuvre," in reference to the medical procedure.