How to Get Term Life Insurance if You've Had a Stroke

UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020

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Stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs due to the stroke, brain cells begin to deteriorate and may even cause death.

The information below will provide you with an overview of stroke, its impact on life insurance rates and some helpful tips on ways to improve your chances of getting the best possible rate. How? You first need to understand how life insurance companies handle applicants with a history of stroke. What do they look for? How can you prepare? What is the likely outcome?

Read on to find the answers and get started with your term life insurance application.

Types of Stroke

Ischemic Stroke

The most common type, causing 83 percent of all strokes, is an ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes occur as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. The obstruction is caused by atherosclerosis, a condition which causes fatty deposits (plaque) to build-up on blood vessel walls. When plaque breaks free, two different variations of clots can be formed: A thrombus clot which stays in place in the brain and an embolism clot which breaks loose and moves through the bloodstream to the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A second major cause of stroke, accounting for approximately 17 percent of cases, is called a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when small blood vessels in the brain become weak and burst due to aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). An aneurysm occurs when the weakened wall of a blood vessel balloons to the point of rupture. An AVM is a cluster of abnormally formed blood vessels which are prone to rupturing. In either scenario, after a blood vessel ruptures, the flow of blood released causes damage to brain cells as it accumulates and compresses brain tissue.

Transient Ischemic Attack

The third type of stroke, called transient ischemic attack (TIA), is considered a minor or warning stroke. During a TIA, a person may be experiencing the conditions that normally result in an ischemic stroke along with similar symptoms, however, for some reason the blood clot occurs lasts only for a short time and the body manages to clear it through normal body mechanisms. Even though the symptoms disappear after a short time, usually within 24 hours, TIAs are strong indicators that a major stroke may be forthcoming. Medical treatment should be initiated immediately to prevent a stroke from occurring.

Stroke Statistics

As of 2015, the following numbers show the significance of stroke:

  • According to the American Stroke Association, a stroke occurs, on average, every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death in the US, killing nearly 129,000 people a year.
  • Stroke kills one person in the US every four minutes.
  • 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year.
  • Of every five deaths from stroke, two occur in men and three in women.

The Impact on Your Life Insurance Policy

When you apply for a life insurance policy, you will have to take a medical exam. During this exam, you will be asked questions about your family history, medical history, lifestyle, and smoking and alcohol usage. The person administering the exam will measure your height, weight, pulse and blood pressure.

What Life Insurance Companies Look For

Life insurance companies are concerned that those who have a history of stroke are taking the proper precautions to keep it under control. A medical history of regular physician checkups is important to the company.

The life insurance company will be looking specifically at:

  •  When you were diagnosed
  • What your diagnosis was
  • Age of diagnosis
  • What steps you have taken since your diagnosis
  • The degree of control as illustrated by medical records, height/weight and lab test results
  • What type of treatment
  • Any other medical conditions present
  • Whether you are a tobacco user

How to Get Term Life Insurance if You’ve Had a Stroke

How to Prepare for Your Term Life Insurance Application

There are important measures you can take to prepare yourself before applying for term life insurance. Doing so will help your chances of getting approved for the best rating class possible. Use the following tips to put yourself in the best position to win:

  • Visit your doctor as often as recommended.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice regarding medication and treatment.
  • Make sure your medical records are regularly updated. This is crucial! The life insurance company will rate your application poorly if it is unable to determine your level of control.
  • Get any other complications under control. For example, if you also have high blood pressure, make sure it is being treated as well!

What our Experience has Shown

We’ve helped thousands of people apply for term life insurance, and many of those people had a history of stroke. Here are a few things we’ve learned:

  • Premiums are lower for those who diet and exercise or keep their blood pressure down with medication
  • Premiums are higher for those who do not follow up with a doctor regularly.
  • We recommend getting a policy in force first at a premium rate you can afford. You can then focus on improving the rating class through better control or lab results.

Real Examples from Real Customers

Good Outcome:

Georgia applied for term life insurance when she was 55 years old.

  • Diagnosed with stroke at age 50
  • Diagnosed with transient ischemic attack
  • No other additional conditions found
  • No other incidents occurred
  • Visits doctor regularly
  • Non smoker
  • Outcome: Approved at a Standard rating class
  • Premium: $365 annually

Not So Good Outcome:

  • Samuel applied for term life insurance when he was 53 years old.
  • Diagnosed with stoke at age 53
  • Diagnosed with transient ischemic attack
  • No other additional conditions found
  • Non Smoker
  • Outcome: Postponed until more time has passed to stabilize condition

Poor Outcome

Jerry applied for term life insurance when he was 51 years old.

  • Diagnosed with stoke at age 50
  • Diagnosed with hemorrhagic stroke
  • Visits doctor regularly
  • Tobacco user
  • Outcome: Declined

You can see Georgia had the best outcome because her condition is mild and stable. Receiving regular follow up appointments with her doctor also helped. Samuel’s stroke was more severe, and although he had no other medical conditions and good follow up results, his more recent stroke gave him a worse prognosis. He will have to wait at least six months before he can be considered for term life insurance. Finally, Jerry had the poorest outcome. His stroke was the most severe and his condition is not stable. This along with his tobacco use resulted in the decline of his application until he can stabilize his condition and quit smoking.

What This All Means to You

The good news about applying for term life insurance when you have a history of stroke is — yes, you can qualify for coverage! The bad news is the approval, and rating class can be very unpredictable and subjective. However, if you follow the advice we’ve provided and, more importantly, discuss your situation with your life insurance agent or broker, you can have a positive outcome.

And remember, if you are not pleased with the offer you receive, you can always try with another company or put the policy in force and work on improving the rating class through better control and lab results.

Sources:  Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, American Heart Association, American Stroke Association

Tim Bain

Tim is a licensed life insurance agent with 23 years of experience helping people protect their families and businesses with term life insurance. He writes and creates stuff for QuickQuote and other insurance and financial websites. You can find him on Twitter.

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