According to the American Heart Association, about 800,000 Americans have a stroke each year, with 3 out of 4 of them being a first-time stroke.
Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability. But is also considered as the leading preventable cause of disability (80% of first strokes may be prevented).
When the blood that travels within our arteries to the brain gets blocked, a stroke occurs.
It’s caused by a blood clot or when the blood vessel itself ruptures. Since there’s no oxygen getting to the brain, the cells within it deteriorate and could either result in death or long term damage to the body.
In general, people who have had a stroke will have a harder time getting the best rates when it comes to life insurance. However, there are plenty of ways you can still get favorable premiums even if you’ve had a stroke. This article will show you everything you need to know about getting life insurance after a stroke.
Types of Stroke
There are 3 main types of stroke. Knowing how each one triggers and how it happens is crucial to underwriters in determining your health class for life insurance.
An Ischemic Stroke happens when the blood vessel that delivers blood to your brain is blocked. It’s the most common type of stroke around the world, with 83 percent of all occurrences identified as Ischemic.
The blockage happens when deposits of fat (called plaque) start building up on the walls of the blood vessel. This condition is called atherosclerosis.
This fatty build-up will break free and form into either of the two types of clot: thrombus and embolism. A thrombus clot stays in place in our brains while an embolism clot moves around the bloodstream and makes its way to the brain.
This type of stroke occurs when the small blood vessels in our brains weaken and start to burst due to arteriovenous malformations (abnormally formed blood vessels prone to rupturing) or aneurysms (weak blood vessel walls starts ballooning to the point of bursting).
When these blood vessels eventually break open, the sudden flow of blood hits the brain cells and damages them while they accumulate and start compressing the tissues inside the brain. It’s the second most common type of stroke that makes up about 17 percent of all instances.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
This type of stroke is a “warning stroke”, as it doesn’t fully develop into an actual ischemic attack. TIA exhibit the symptoms present in an ischemic stroke but the blockage in the blood vessels only occur for a short time.
This allows the body to clear up the clot symptoms and they typically vanish after 24 hours. However, you should immediately receive a medical exam and treatment in order to avoid an actual stroke from happening.
Factors that Will Affect Life Insurance After a Stroke
People who suffered from a stroke will need to answer the following questions when they apply for a life insurance policy. Insurance companies need to assess the level of risk involved moving forward as well as the actual effects it brought to the body. Such as if the person was disabled or had a mental illness after the stroke, for example.
When did you experience the stroke?
If the stroke was recent (less than a year) it’s likely that you won’t get favorable rates unlike if the stroke happened, say 3 or 5 years ago. And if the stroke happened within the last 6 months, there’s a good chance the life insurance company will postpone your approval.
How old were you when you had a stroke?
Contrary to what most people think, an older person who had a stroke may actually assess for better ratings in terms of premium rates than a younger person who experienced a stroke. Why?
Because insurance underwriters may view strokes of younger people as a precursor to other health issues in the future. If you think about it, strokes are “common” among older people, primarily because health degrades along with age.
Having a stroke at a young age can be quite alarming since it means that there was an underlying reason that caused the stroke. And, these reasons are a red flag to life insurers since it increases a person’s overall risk rating.
How many strokes have you had?
It’s simple, really. The more strokes you’ve had, the higher the risk rating you’ll receive. A person who suffered just a single stroke in their life will be in a better position in terms of premium ratings versus someone who has had several strokes.
What caused the stroke?
Atherosclerosis is plaque that builds up within the arteries that connect to the brain. This causes a blockage that leads to a stroke. The underlying group of conditions and disorders that affect the supply of blood to the brain and results in malformation and hemorrhage.
This is known as Cerebrovascular Disease or CVD. A stroke categorized as a CVD is considered the most common type along with an aneurysm, vascular dementia, and subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Other reasons for a stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and even an adverse reaction to prescription drugs.
Life insurance underwriters will try to find out the cause of the stroke and other related risks so they can classify your risk rating to determine your health class.
How was the cause determined?
When underwriters find out that about the stroke, they will recommend tests during the medical exam to find out the possible cause and its effect on the person’s body. These tests are mostly painless and are implemented to see how a person’s brain works, looks, and how it gets its blood supply.
Tests might include a Computed Tomography Scan or CT scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA), and Magnetic Resonance (MRA) are used to get an image of the brain so the doctor can see the brain’s current status, check for small injuries, abnormalities, and more.
Tests like Cerebral Angiography determines how a person’s blood flows through the vessels and to diagnose any malformation and location of blockages.
Do you have relatives who have cardiovascular diseases?
Underwriters will also want to know if you have family members or relatives that have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and/or have suffered a stroke. Genetics plays a role when it comes to a stroke. Some studies reveal that there’s a higher chance of recurrent stroke if you have a relative that has cardiovascular diseases.
Are you currently taking any medications? If so, which ones?
Underwriters will want to know if you have been given medication for your condition. And, if you have been taking them as advised by the doctor. Your pharmacy report will show this information so you better be accurate with the information you disclose.
Do you suffer from any other health conditions?
Diabetes is a risk factor for a stroke along with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. If you have heart problems such as an enlarged heart, heart murmur, Aortic Valve Disorder, Atrial Fibrillation, or Mitral Valve Disorder, then expect the underwriters to probe deeper into these related conditions as these are risk factors that could trigger another stroke.
Do you smoke or drink alcohol?
Smokers receive assessment with a 200% to 300% premium increase. If that person also suffered a stroke, then expect life insurance companies to slap even higher rates. Or worse, decline the policy altogether. Ischemic stroke risk elevates among alcohol user. So, reduce your intake if you want a better chance at getting favorable premiums.
How is your life after the stroke?
Underwriters will want to know how the stroke affected your lifestyle overall. If you’ve shown progress in reducing the risk of a recurrent stroke by taking the prescribed meds and following a generally healthy lifestyle, it’s a positive sign for underwriters and will help in getting you into a better health class.
Life Insurance Rates for Stroke Survivors
Now that you have plenty of information about how a stroke happens, its different types, and the assessment of life insurance companies, it’s time to look into the potential premium rates you’d be given if you’re a stroke survivor.
Preferred Plus and Preferred
Since we’re talking about experiencing a potentially life-threatening event, stroke survivors are almost never considered to be prime candidates for this type of health class as this level requires a person to be in tip-top health.
While not the mainstream health rating for stroke survivors, there’s still a chance for someone who’s had a stroke. For example, if an older applicant had a mild form of TIA more than 5 years ago, they may qualify.
Also, a few CVA survivors can also qualify for Standard rating if the stroke was more than 5 years ago. Recent scans also need to show favorable carotid conditions and the embolism is just between 2mm to 15mm per MRI scans. These are proof that the applicant is able to function actively without the presence of other related risk factors.
Substandard Rates (Table Rating)
This is the most common health class given to TIA or stroke survivors if the event happened less than 5 years ago. Rates will vary depending on the applicant’s health and the actual effect of the stroke on the person’s lifestyle.
Postpone or Decline
Most insurance companies will decline or postpone a policy application if it has been less than a year since the stroke. Insurers want to see the person’s health stabilize first to reduce the overall risk.
Tips for Getting the Best Life Insurance Rates After a Stroke
Below are the best steps to take to get more favorable life insurance rates if you’re a stroke survivor.
Maintain overall good health
Be diligent in controlling your diet and try to get regular exercise. Both will go a long way in keeping your entire body in shape. It will also reduce the risk of clogging and build-up of fatty deposits within the blood vessels. For best results, cut back on saturated and trans fat intake as those two are the usual suspects for clots.
If you smoke, this perhaps should be your number one priority. It will dramatically improve your health ratings if you quit. And even if you don’t apply for life insurance, the benefits alone will be worth it both for your cardiovascular and lung health.
Cut back on alcohol
Alcohol increases blood pressure, which is one of the most important risk factors for strokes. It also negatively affects the way your body manages insulin. This could lead to type 2 diabetes, which increases the risk of strokes by as much as 50 percent.
Maintain good blood pressure levels
Try to avoid engaging in strenuous activities that can elevate your blood pressure. Stressful environments can have the same effect. So be mindful of your overall well-being to make sure you aren’t always stressed.
Keep your medical records up to date.
Life insurance underwriters like seeing complete medical reports for applicants as it allows for a more accurate assessment. Clients who show a willingness to treat and control their condition with full documentation is a big plus on their books. It will help you become more qualified for life insurance and (hopefully) for better rates.
The US National Library of Medicine revealed in a study that the chance of recurrence of a stroke is at its highest right after the first stroke. And it remains elevated for a few years thereafter. Their advice: “Efforts at secondary prevention should be initiated as soon as possible and continued for several years to gain the greatest benefit.”
This highlights the importance of timing as a factor in the type of rating that you’ll receive. The longer it’s been since you had a stroke, the better the chances you’ll have of favorable rates. Maintaining good overall health and following the doctor’s orders are crucial as well.
The right life insurance agent can help you get the right policy at a decent price and the right life insurance company. Some insurance companies won’t provide you with your desired or expected rates as they generally see stroke survivors as high-risk individuals.
However, with the help of a professional, you have a better chance of getting “matched” with a policy and insurance company at a reasonable rate. If you want to know more, you can contact us directly for advice and a free quote.