New Blood Pressure Guidelines May Affect Your Term Life Insurance Cost
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UPDATED: Aug 19, 2020
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High blood pressure. There’s a good chance you have it. A better chance today than there was two days ago, anyway.
Thanks to a new guideline issued by the American Heart Association (AHA), you are considered to have abnormally high blood pressure, a.k.a. Hypertension, if your blood pressure average is higher than 130/80. This means that approximately 46 percent of adults in the U.S. are hypertensive.
The old guideline for hypertension was 140/90, and at that level, about 32 percent of adults were afflicted. So revising the threshold downward is a significant change that will impact millions of Americans.
Life Insurance Company Guidelines on Blood Pressure
Guidelines for blood pressure do vary by life insurance company (see guidelines here: life insurance underwriting guidelines), but they tend to be within a few points of one another. Many companies allow higher readings for older people. Those usually kick in around age 60 or so.
Companies don’t change these guidelines very often. We haven’t seen a significant shift in blood pressure guidelines across the industry in many years. A review of guidelines from ten of our partner companies shows these guidelines are nearly the same today as they were five years ago, especially for the Preferred Plus and Preferred rating classes. If anything, they are slightly more lenient now.
Under the previous AHA guideline of 140/90, you could earn a Preferred rating from several companies. 130/80 will get you Preferred Plus with all companies we work with. However, given the significance of the new AHA guideline, it’s reasonable to expect some life insurance companies will follow suit and tighten up their own guidelines.
What about medications?
The new AHA guideline has many people wondering if they will now be required to take blood pressure medication. It’s still very early to tell obviously, but experts believe a small percentage of people will need treatment due to the new guideline. According to ABC’s Jennifer Ashton, MD, it’s expected that only two percent more Americans will require medication as a result of the new guideline.
If you are already on blood pressure medication, or your physician now recommends it, don’t fret too much over your term life insurance premium. Most life insurance companies allow the use of blood pressure medications in their guidelines for Preferred Plus and Preferred rating classes. As long as your blood pressure is well-controlled with treatment, you may be able to qualify for the lowest rates available.
Natural Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure
There are ways you can control your blood pressure without the help of medications. Consider lifestyle changes such as these:
- Diet: Reduce sodium intake and increase potassium intake (bananas, salmon, avocados)
- Regular exercise: Stay active and focus on cardiovascular exercise to improve heart health.
- Weight loss: Dr. Ashton states that a small reduction of 5 percent of your body weight, when combined with other factors such as diet and exercise, may decrease your blood pressure by an average of 5 to 11 points.
- Limit alcohol consumption: Experts recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
When you apply for a term life insurance policy, most companies will require an in-home medical exam. Part of that exam includes the examiner taking three blood pressure readings. Those readings are averaged by the life insurance company and applied to their guidelines.
To better prepare for the exam and give yourself the best chance of lower readings, follow these tips:
- Do not engage in strenuous activity for 24 hours before the exam
- Refrain from alcohol consumption for 24 hours before the exam
- Limit caffeine intake in the 24 hours before the exam, with NO caffeine for eight hours before your exam.
- Calm yourself before and during the exam by slowing and focusing on your breath.
If you are nervous about the exam, ask the examiner to take your blood pressure reading at the end of the exam when you’re more likely to be relaxed. And if none of this works and your readings on the exam are higher than normal, we can work with you, your doctor, and the life insurance company to improve your rating class and lower term life insurance premium.
Learn more about the medical exam here: What to Expect From a Life Insurance Medical Exam.