UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020
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A heart murmur is the sound of blood flowing through an abnormal valve or a hole in the wall between the chambers of the heart. It is not the heart murmur itself that is significant. The concern is the underlying condition. Some conditions causing heart murmurs have no effect on mortality. Others have serious consequences. Conditions causing heart murmurs may be treated surgically, by repair or replacement of a valve, or closure of a septal defect.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t get approved for the best rating class with the lowest premium possible. How? You first need to understand how life insurance companies handle applicants with heart murmurs. 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.
What Does a Heart Murmur Mean?
A heart murmur is a sound heard during a heartbeat. While most heart murmurs are harmless and do not require any medical treatment, there are some types of heart murmurs that will require follow-up with your physician. For many people with heart murmurs, they never experience any problems and may have only learned they had a heart murmur after a routine heart check with a stethoscope.
Functional heart murmurs are also called innocent heart murmurs and are the least concern to life insurance underwriters. Some types of functional heart murmurs are Physiologic heart murmurs, cardio – respiratory heart murmurs, and aortic sclerosis heart murmurs. As long as there are no additional underlying heart problems, we have some life insurance companies that will consider you for life insurance coverage without charging you additional money. Organic heart murmurs are caused by heart disease or are congenital heart problems. Some types of organic heart murmurs are:
- Aortic Insufficiency
- Aortic Stenosis
- Bicuspid Aortic Valve problems
- Mitral Insufficiency
- Mitral Stenosis
- Mitral Valve Prolapse
- Pulmonary Insufficiency
- Pulmonary Stenosis
Heart Murmur Statistics
As of 2011, the following numbers show the significance of heart murmurs:
- About 25,000 babies are born each year with heart defects, such as holes in heart walls or misshapen heart valves. Many congenital heart defects can be corrected by surgery.
- Twice as many women have heart murmurs than men.
- Every 34 seconds a person in the United States dies from heart disease.
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, lifestyle, and smoking and alcohol usage. The person administering the exam will measure your height, weight, pulse and blood pressure. It is during this process that a heart murmur is typically found.
What Life Insurance Companies Look For
Life insurance companies are concerned that those with heart murmurs 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 with a heart murmur
- What your diagnosis was
- What steps you have taken since your diagnosis
- The degree of control as illustrated by medical records, height/weight and lab test results
- Any other medical conditions present
- Whether you are a tobacco user
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 heart murmurs. 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
Dale applied for term life insurance when he was 52 years old.
- Diagnosed with a functional heart murmur at age 52
- No other additional underlying heart problems found
- Non smoker
- Outcome: Approved at a Preferred rating class
- Premium: $176 annually
Not So Good Outcome:
Lillian applied for term life insurance when she was 51 years old.
- Diagnosed with organic heart murmur at age 46
- Murmur due to trivial Aortic Stenosis
- No other additional underlying health problems
- Non Smoker
- Outcome: Approved at a Standard Table 2 rating class
- Premium: $1,006 annually
Andrew applied for term life insurance when he was 51 years old.
- Diagnosed with organic heart murmur at age 50
- Murmur due to moderate Aortic Stenosis
- Treated with valvotomy surgery at age 50
- Outcome: Declined until more time has passed between surgery and approval
What This All Means to You
The good news about applying for term life insurance when you have a heart murmur 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.