Getting life insurance approval with an irregular heartbeat can seem impossible. Here’s what you should know about getting a policy.
When shopping for life insurance, your health status means a lot. Underwriters want to cover low-risk individuals, so those with specific health conditions may get denied for most policies.
Typically, heart problems can be considered “knock-out” issues, but not always. Arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, is one such condition that can still be covered with life insurance.
If you have an arrhythmia, the process of finding a policy is not exactly easy, but it is possible. Here is everything you need to know about life insurance approval with an irregular heartbeat.
What is Arrhythmia?
The average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Your heart has a natural pacemaker called the sinus node, which generates electrical impulses that control each rhythm.
Arrhythmia is when your heart rate is too fast, too slow, or irregular. While your heart rate can be affected by various stimuli (i.e., exercise), it should return to normal relatively quickly. If it doesn’t, it could be a sign of worse problems, such as a weak heart or heart disease.
There are two types of irregular heartbeats – Tachycardia (fast) and Bradycardia (slow). The location of the symptoms can determine whether the arrhythmia is a sign of something more serious.
Arrhythmia can happen in either the heart’s upper chambers (atria) or the lower (ventricles). Here is a quick breakdown of the various tachy and bradycardia issues that may occur.
Possible Tachycardia and Bradycardia Issues
- Atrial Fibrillation – This condition is caused by rapid, chaotic electrical impulses. Fibrillation can be temporary, but if it isn’t, it could indicate a potential stroke.
- Atrial Flutter – This condition is similar to fibrillation but not as random. Flutter can also lead to stroke if left unchecked.
- Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome – This syndrome is genetic and occurs when you’re born with an extra pathway in the heart for electrical signals. If the signals go through this additional pathway, it can cause short circuits and a rapid heart rate.
- Ventricular Tachycardia – Since the ventricles are responsible for pumping blood through the body, arrhythmia can be much more severe. In this case, the heart pumps too little blood because the ventricles don’t have enough time to fill.
- Ventricular Fibrillation – This condition can be fatal if left untreated. Since the ventricles have chaotic impulses, they don’t pump much blood into the system, causing the body to shut down.
- Long QT Syndrome – This syndrome can be sporadic and lead to fainting or, in extreme cases, death. Long QT is another congenital condition, although other heart problems and diseases can cause it.
- Sick Sinus Syndrome – Since the sinus node controls your heart rate, a damaged node creates problems like Bradycardia or Tachycardia. Scarring in the area is the most common cause of this syndrome.
- Conduction Block – In some instances, the electrical pathways may get blocked for various reasons. These blocks may result in skipped heartbeats or no symptoms at all.
More About Arrhythmia
Usually, you’ll notice warning signs of arrhythmia, such as a fluttering heart rate or dizzy spells. In some cases, however, you may not realize that your heartbeat is irregular at all.
Remember that some medications can slow your heart rate and that your rate changes all the time. The only reason to consider arrhythmia is if you notice signs and symptoms when at rest. Your heart should function normally if you’re not engaged in physical activities or other stimuli.
How Does an Irregular Heartbeat Affect Life Insurance?
As we mentioned, life insurance underwriters want to minimize risks to the company. Since some arrhythmia variations can be serious or fatal, insurers will view you as a much higher risk. That said, some life insurance companies specialize in heart conditions, while others will view any irregular heartbeat as a cause for denial.
Here are the various ways that arrhythmia can affect your life insurance options:
Type of Arrhythmia
As we’ve seen, there are many different variations of an irregular heartbeat. As a rule, tachycardia is more serious than bradycardia since it can affect how much blood pumps into your body. If your heart rate is too high, it could cause more complications like stroke.
Time Since Diagnosis
You may have arrhythmia and not even know it. However, if you are diagnosed, it helps to wait before applying for life insurance. Insurance companies want to make sure that your condition doesn’t worsen, so the longer you can wait, the better your chances of approval.
For example, if you were diagnosed last week, most insurers would view you as a much higher risk. Even if you could get approved, your premiums would be much more expensive.
Many arrhythmias don’t require particular medications or procedures. Usually, diet and lifestyle changes can improve the condition. However, your doctor may recommend medicine or something more permanent, such as a pacemaker.
If you are on a specific treatment plan, insurance companies want to be sure that you’re following it and that it is working to control the problem.
In most cases, an arrhythmia is a symptom of something else going on in your body. Some potential risk factors include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Unchecked Diabetes
- Congenital Heart Disease
- Heart Surgery
- Sleep Apnea
- Alcohol Abuse
- Drug Use (both prescription and illicit)
So, depending on what is causing the irregular heartbeat, you may get declined either way. For example, if heavy drinking is damaging your heart, you can’t get life insurance. If diabetes is the cause, insurers want to be sure that you’re treating both conditions, so they don’t worsen.
Your age is always a factor when buying life insurance, but it can be even more influential if you have an arrhythmia. As a rule, the older you are, the more at-risk you become. So, if you’re over 50 and have an irregular heartbeat, you may get declined. However, a 35-year-old with the same condition may get approved.
What to Do if You Have an Irregular Heartbeat
While it can be shocking to get diagnosed with arrhythmia, you can do a lot to control your situation. Depending on the type of condition you have, you may be able to reverse it and get better life insurance options.
Here are some steps to improve your chances of life insurance approval with an irregular heartbeat.
Change Your Diet and Exercise
In many cases, an arrhythmia is a symptom of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Eating healthier and exercising regularly can come with a host of benefits, including a more stable heart rate. Even if your condition is congenital, diet and exercise are vital for a long, healthy life.
Talk to Your Doctor About Treatment Options
Depending on your condition’s severity, you may start taking medication or use a machine to help control your heart’s electrical impulses. Be sure to discuss any underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Usually, keeping these elements under control can reduce the chances of arrhythmia.
Be Open and Honest With the Insurance Company
When filling out a life insurance questionnaire, you never want to leave off any medical conditions. Insurance companies have access to the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), which will let them know of any surgeries or medications you’re taking.
If you lie on your exam, you will get declined no matter what. Even worse, your actions could prevent you from getting insurance from other providers as well.
Instead, you want to talk with an insurance agent about your condition. Some companies will offer different rates depending on the type of arrhythmia and treatments you’re taking. Be sure to list any medications or devices you’re using, and take note of the last few times you experienced any symptoms. Usually, the longer between episodes, the lower your risk level.
Consider Guaranteed Acceptance Life Insurance
If your arrhythmia is severe, you likely can’t get any traditional life insurance policies. However, you can still take care of your loved ones when you’re gone with a guaranteed acceptance plan. These policies will cover anyone, even those with severe or fatal health conditions.
That said, we recommend exhausting all of your options before taking this route. These plans have strict limitations and downsides, such as:
- Two-Year Waiting Period – If you die within two years, your beneficiaries only receive a refund of what you paid into the plan. Usually, the company adds a 10-percent benefit.
- Limited Death Benefits – Most of these policies max out at $20,000 or $25,000 total.
- Expensive Premiums – You can expect to pay hundreds of dollars per month, compared to the more affordable options with term life insurance.
Overall, guaranteed acceptance policies should only be viewed as a last resort. However, they can offer peace of mind for both you and your family.
Contact NextGen Life Insurance Today
Getting life insurance approval with an irregular heartbeat doesn’t have to be a challenge. We make it easy to compare plans and rates across dozens of different companies, making it easier to find what you need. Get your free quote today or call us at 646-216-4199 to get started.