You may be reading this article because you just went to the doctor and found out you have high cholesterol and now you’re wondering if you can still get life insurance.
Or, maybe you already knew you had high cholesterol and now you want to know how that will affect your odds of getting life insurance.
Whatever the reason, you’ve come to the right place. If you are concerned about getting affordable life insurance with high cholesterol, you are not alone.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 100 million adult Americans have high total cholesterol levels. As many as 7% of 6-19-year-old children also have high total cholesterol.
This is extremely concerning to life insurance underwriters when reviewing cases. The leading cause of death in Americans is heart disease, which is common in people with a hypercholesterolemia diagnosis (high cholesterol).
Even more alarming is that there are no symptoms that can be attributed to high cholesterol. The only way people know they are at risk is by getting checked and having a full lipid blood panel done to check your:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – the “good” cholesterol
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – the “bad” cholesterol
- Total blood cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol and don’t know it, left untreated it can cause heart disease, stroke or a heart attack even if there isn’t a family history. Catching it early means that it can be managed by some basic lifestyle changes and potentially medication.
Is high cholesterol a pre-existing condition?
Put simply: Yes, it can be.
People who are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol have familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). Inheriting FH means that it is harder for your body to remove the LDL cholesterol, causing it to build up in the system.
If you have FH, then there is a 50/50 chance you will pass it down to your child. If someone in your family has had heart disease, stents, or a stroke prior to age 55 for men and 65 for women, you will want to have your child checked for FH and get a blood panel test.
So, what can you do if your child is at risk?
Get them tested early, and if they have FH, work with your doctor to get them on the right medication to help control the LDL and increase the HDL. Most people cannot lower their LDL through diet and lifestyle changes alone.
Also, if you have not been tested but feel you might have the genetic mutation for familial hypercholesterolemia, get tested along with your child(ren)! You can compare results with the chart below to see where you are and what your cholesterol ratios should look like.
How are Cholesterol levels calculated?
Once you’ve gotten your lipid panel results back, you will have a set of numbers that make up your cholesterol ratios and determine if you have hypercholesterolemia. Let’s take a look at what those numbers mean.
The HDL cholesterol is what helps to keep your arteries clear and moves along the LDL cholesterol to be removed from the body through the liver. The higher your HDL number, the better and the lower the risk you have of getting heart disease or having a stroke. You want your numbers to be higher than 60.
The LDL cholesterol is a fatty looking substance that can clog your arteries and increase your risk of having a stroke or getting heart disease. You want this number to be lower, ideally less than 100.
Triglycerides ratios are determined by measuring lipids in the blood plasma. This number will ideally be lower than 150. Having excess triglycerides can cause coronary artery disease in some people.
Total blood cholesterol is a calculation that is looked at closely by underwriters to determine your risk when approving you for life insurance. Adding your HDL and LDL ratios along with 20% of your triglycerides levels will give you the total blood cholesterol level. The lower this number, the better for your health and life insurance premiums.
What is considered high cholesterol for life insurance?
This chart below, provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI,) shows healthy blood cholesterol levels based on age and sex:
Each life insurance company differs in how they view high cholesterol and determining their level of risk. Some also have different numbers for men and women, since cholesterol can affect each sex differently and tends to be naturally higher in women.
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults over the age of 20 get their levels checked with a complete blood lipid panel and a physical every four to six years.
If you have not been to the doctor for a physical and blood test within the past five years, it would be best to get that done prior to completing your life insurance application. This way, you can view the results and see if there are any factors, including high cholesterol, that might cause your rating to be higher and more costly.
The worst thing you can do is go in confidently after you’ve completed the application and taken the medical exam, just to get the results and be blindsided. The underwriter handling your life insurance case will weigh heavily on these results to determine which rating you fall under, and it will have a huge impact on your premium.
If you think you are healthy based on height and weight but you have a family history of health issues, don’t put off going to see a doctor. This is especially true if there is a history of heart disease and stroke, as high LDL cholesterol levels are an indicator for both.
What questions should I be prepared to answer when applying for life insurance with high cholesterol?
There are going to be the standard questions that all life insurance companies require you to answer on a traditional life insurance application. If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol ratios, then they will be sure to ask these questions to help determine your mortality risk:
- Age were you when you were first diagnosed with high cholesterol?
- What were your levels?
- Treatment plan does your doctor have in place?
- What types of medication are you taking?
- Do you have any other health issues?
- Is there a family history of hypercholesterolemia, heart disease, and stroke?
- Are you a smoker?
After you’ve completed your application, you will have to take a medical exam as well. This is where people who believe they are healthy and haven’t been to a doctor recently get that surprise after their results come back meaning a lower rating and higher premiums.
Don’t let this happen to you! Get tested sooner than later, and use some of the tips below to help lower your cholesterol for the life insurance blood test.
What rating can I expect to get with hypercholesterolemia?
The rating you get will be determined not only by your personal levels but also:
- Any other health concerns
- Your family history
- Your height and weight at the time of application
- Whether or not you are a smoker
Let’s take a look at the rating you can expect for your life insurance determination:
Not possible. If you have hypercholesterolemia, you will not be able to get this rating. You will have to have your levels in the normal range for at least two to three years with test results to prove it to get this rating. You will also have to be perfectly healthy with no other familial risk factors to get the best rating.
Highly unlikely. If you are in optimal health with no family history or other concerns, and your cholesterol is being well managed with your doctor’s treatment plan, you could potentially get this rating.
Possible. As long as all your medical exam results come back in the normal range, including your cholesterol, and you don’t have a family history or other health concerns, you can most likely get a standard rating.
Substandard (table rating)
Likely. People with hypercholesterolemia that is well controlled will get a lower table rating, resulting in a lower premium. If your cholesterol is not being controlled and/or you have other health concerns, you will likely get a higher table rating and more expensive premium.
Possible. If your levels are high enough, that can be enough alone to get you denied for life insurance. Even if your levels are normal, you might have enough other risk factors (like overweight or being a smoker) that can get you denied as well.
That is why it is so important to talk with a knowledgeable agent who knows which companies work best with people who have a diagnosis or family history of high cholesterol.
How to lower cholesterol
Here are some tips to help you lower your LDL, increase your HDL, and get the best life insurance rating you can get.
We say this every time, but if you are a smoker, QUIT NOW! You will not only reduce your risk of a host of health issues and increase your life expectancy, but it also automatically qualifies you for lower life insurance rates.
It can also make our next tip that much easier to complete.
If you are overweight or have a few extra pounds to lose, now is the best time to start losing so you are in better health for your life insurance exam.
Not only does losing weight look more favorable on your application, but it also decreases your risk of heart issues and can increase your HDL while lowering your LDL.
Get active and start walking or take up a physical hobby that can help you lose the pounds. Your goal should be a minimum of 30 minutes of brisk activity five days a week.
Which leads us to our next tip…
Make better food choices
Eating healthier goes hand in hand with losing weight. It should be of no surprise to anyone that making better food choices helps improve our health.
Here are some great ideas for foods to eat that can directly impact your cholesterol and increase your HDL to help combat high LDL numbers:
- Whole grains
- Fatty fish
- Citrus fruits
- Unsaturated fats/vegetable oils
Avoid or reduce alcohol intake
Alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, which means no more than one drink per day for women and two for men.
LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels can increase from overconsumption of alcohol. So if you can’t completely remove it from your diet, at least reduce it to the levels above to help keep the bad cholesterol from clogging your arteries.
What if I get denied for Life Insurance with High Cholesterol?
Even if you put your best foot forward during the application and exam process, you still might find yourself getting denied for coverage. If that happens, there are still options available to you.
Some companies offer life insurance for people with very few or no health questions or exams. A simplified issue life insurance policy is just a few basic questions and no exam needed. A guaranteed issue life insurance policy requires no health questions and no exam.
These options are going to be more expensive due to the lack of underwriting, but might be a great alternative for you until you can get your health under control and reapply at a later date.
Another option that you should be able to get is burial insurance. While the limits for this type of insurance are much lower (like that of simplified and guaranteed), it may be another option.
If you haven’t already done so, please reach out to one of our knowledgeable agents who can help you find the best company to work with based on your health issues. They can give you the best chance of getting approved at a rate you can afford.