UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020
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High cholesterol levels aren’t just bad for your health; they can be bad for your wallet, too. High cholesterol means that you are at a higher risk for heart disease. A greater risk applicant means higher life insurance premiums.
You can improve your chances of being approved for the best rating class with the lowest premium possible. How? You first need to understand how life insurance companies handle applicants with high cholesterol. 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 is Cholesterol?
You may be surprised to find out that not all cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol is simply a waxy substance created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy. Some of the cholesterol we need is produced in the body naturally while some of it comes from the food we eat.
There are two types of cholesterol: HDL, the good cholesterol, and LDL, the bad cholesterol. It is important to understand the difference and to know your levels of each. Too much or too little of one type can put you at risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
A cholesterol screening measures your level of HDL and LDL. HDL cholesterol helps keep the LDL cholesterol from getting lodged into your artery walls. A healthy level of HDL may also protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women) may increase the risk of heart disease.
LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their families that cause them to make too much. LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood and at high levels can clog arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If you need to increase your HDL to your reach your goals, studies show that regular physical activity can help your body produce more HDLs. Reducing trans fats and eating a balanced, nutritious diet is another way to increase HDL. If these measures are not enough to increase your HDL to goal, your doctor may prescribe a medication to increase your HDLs. If high blood cholesterol runs in your family, lifestyle modifications may not be enough to help lower your LDL blood cholesterol.
Everyone is different, so work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that’s best for you.
As of 2015, the following numbers show the significance of cholesterol:
- More than 71 million Americans have high cholesterol.
- Only 1 in 3 people with high cholesterol have it under control.
- People with high total cholesterol have approximately twice the risk of heart disease as people with optimal levels.
- For adult Americans, the average level is about 200 mg/dL, which is a borderline high risk.
- More women than men have high cholesterol in the US.
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. Also, you will have to give a sample of your blood, which will be tested for your cholesterol and lipid levels, among other things.
If you have had high cholesterol in the past, don’t panic. Keep in mind that many people respond well to medications that help lower their cholesterol levels. If you have successfully lowered your levels, your past levels should have little affect your life insurance costs.
What Life Insurance Companies Look For
Life insurance companies are concerned that those with high cholesterol 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:
- How long you have had high cholesterol
- 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 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 high cholesterol. Here are a few things we’ve learned:
- Premiums are lower for those who diet and exercise or keep their cholesterol down with medication
- Premiums are higher for those who do not follow up with a doctor regularly.
- The most favorable outcomes will have an HDL ratio below 4.0 and a total cholesterol level between 150 and 250.
- 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
Lee applied for term life insurance when he was 52 years old.
- Diagnosed at age 49
- Diagnosed with high cholesterol
- Cholesterol controlled with medication, diet, and exercise
- Outcome: Approved at a Preferred rating class
- Premium: $495 annually
Not So Good Outcome
Christopher applied for term life insurance when he was 55 years old.
- Diagnosed at age 54
- Diagnosed with high cholesterol
- Takes medication, but inconsistent
- Follow up visits show levels up and down
- Outcome: Approved at a Standard rating class
- Premium: $1,345 annually
Marilynn applied for term life insurance when she was 46 years old.
- Never diagnosed with high cholesterol
- Has not seen a doctor in over ten years
- Paramedical exam results: cholesterol level of 352; Chol/HDL ratio of 6.1
- Outcome: Declined
What This All Means to You
The good news about applying for term life insurance when you have cholesterol 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: Wikipedia, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention