Heart murmurs are not talked about all that frequently compared to some more frightening diseases such as pancreatitis or sarcoidosis. However, life insurance companies know about them all too well. A heart murmur often means nothing, though it can be a sign of something more serious, such as a damaged heart valve.
If the latter is the case, then it’s going to affect your premiums. If you have heart murmurs, the most important thing for you to do is to have it looked at by a doctor, and see if there’s anything you need to do.
Then, once you understand your condition, you need to make sure that you’re not paying too much on life insurance because of it. Here is a brief overview of the diagnosis, and some ways to find the best rates on life insurance.
What is a Heart Murmur?
Let’s start off by describing what a heart murmur actually is. According to The American Heart Association, a heart murmur is caused by improperly operating heart valves. There are many reasons this can occur, for example, if a valve is ‘stenotic,’ that means it cannot open as much as it’s supposed to.
Another reason may be that it is not able to close completely, leading to a regurgitation of blood. When doctors hear a heart murmur, they normally do some additional tests like an ECG or an X-ray to find out what’s causing it.
The most common reasons for a heart murmur are anemia, an overactive thyroid, fever, or pregnancy. If you are experiencing chest pains, heart palpitations, fatigue, or troubled breathing, visit a doctor as these are all symptoms of heart murmurs.
Heart Murmur Statistics
Heart diseases are one of the most common causes of death worldwide. According to Quick Quote, approximately 25,000 babies are born each year with some sort of heart defect, from a torn heart wall to misshapen valves. Also, heart murmurs are twice as likely to affect women than men.
Heart murmurs may sound scary, but often they aren’t anything to worry about. In fact, around 45 percent of infants have some sort of heart murmur, though most of the time they heal on their own.
Functional Heart Murmur
When a heart murmur is asymptomatic and does not require any medication, it is called a ‘functional’ heart murmur, or an ‘innocent’ heart murmur. As stated, functional heart murmurs are usually found in children and vanish by adulthood.
Organic Heart Murmur
Organic murmurs are the more dangerous types of heart murmurs, and also the ones that will affect your life insurance policies the most. There are usually symptoms of some sort, and can be a sign of underlying problems, such as mitral valve prolapse or aortic sclerosis. If these are the type of heart murmurs you have, there’s a good chance you’re going to need medication and have regular checkups.
Types of Heart Murmurs
Heart murmurs are not a diagnosis in themselves, but often the result of an underlying condition. Heart murmurs can be caused by a multitude of ailments, which, while all cause audible heart problems, are not the same. If a heart murmur is organic, it is most likely caused by one of the following heart malfunctions according to Stanford Health Care.
Aortic stenosis is what happens when the aortic valve is too narrow, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. Without treatment, this can lead to serious complications.
Regurgitation (Mitral or Aortic)
Regurgitation is what it sounds like, when small amounts of blood are regurgitated back into either the mitral or aortic valve. Over time, with enough blood ending up where it doesn’t belong, heart damage can occur as the heart tries to spit it back up.
These murmurs occur between heart beats when the heart is relaxing and filling with blood. These murmurs are graded on a scale between one and four, with four being the loudest.
As opposed to diastolic murmurs which occur when the heart relaxes, systolic murmurs occur when the heart contracts, and are graded on a scale between one and six. Grade six systolic murmurs can be heard even without a stethoscope.
Mitral Valve Prolapse
Mitral valve prolapse is a clicking sound that a heart makes during beats, indicating that its mitral valve is not closing properly. Although these qualify as organic heart murmurs, they are actually fairly common and generally not serious.
Aortic sclerosis is when the aortic valve becomes stiff or thickens. If the aortic valve is also narrow it could be a sign of heart disease, otherwise it’s not especially dangerous. However, if complications arise, the aortic valve may need to be replaced through bypass surgery.
The Impact of Heart Murmurs on Life insurance
Now that we’ve gone over some key information on heart murmurs, it’s time to talk about how they will affect your life insurance premiums, and what you can do to save money.
Since nearly half of all children are born with some form of heart murmur, it may seem like everybody applying for life insurance will need to deal with the consequences. However, since most of the time they go away after a few years, they usually have no bearing on life insurance premiums. If you had heart murmurs as a child, as long as they have healed, life insurance companies will not consider them.
Life insurance companies are also going to want to know why you’ve had or are having heart murmurs, in case they are the result of a serious medical condition. If your murmur is functional, it shouldn’t affect your policies as long as it isn’t caused by a more serious disease; however, if your heart murmur is caused by one of the conditions listed above, such as regurgitation or aortic sclerosis, your rates could go up.
Your rates could go up further depending on whether or not you have any symptoms, and if so, what they are. Symptoms such as heart palpitations and chest pain could lead to other health complications, putting you at further risk.
You can still get affordable life insurance with an organic heart murmur if its asymptomatic. However, the appearance of symptoms is especially important to life insurance companies, and may even get you denied coverage.
Results and Date of Last Tests
If you have a heart murmur and the doctors have diagnosed it as innocent, life insurance companies will still want to be sure. They will usually ask when it was diagnosed, and unless it was recent, they may ask you to check again with your doctor to see if it returned.
Also, if you haven’t received an X-ray or ECG for your innocent heart murmurs, they will usually want you to have those tests done to make sure they are really innocent before they write your policy.
Since your actions play an enormous part in your health, your agent will want to know if there’s anything you could have been doing to make your situation worse. This includes failing to schedule checkups, having a poor diet, not exercising, and smoking tobacco.
If this is the case, you may need to lead a healthier lifestyle and make sure you have regular follow ups to monitor your condition if you don’t want your rates to elevate too high.
Medications or Surgeries
Finally, your life insurance company will need to know what medications you’re on, and whether or not you’ve had any surgeries for your heart murmurs. You should have a list with all of the medications you’re taking when you talk to your representative so they have all of the information they need.
If you’ve had a heart operation, you should have a full report of the procedure printed out and ready to be looked over. Medication may benefit your premiums, as it will show life insurance companies that you are taking steps to improve your health. However, since surgeries carry many risks, your coverage may be denied until you’ve fully healed.
What to do Before Applying for Life Insurance with a Heart Murmur
Your genetics are out of your hands. If you have organic heart murmurs, there’s nothing you could have done about that. However, there are still many ways you can work on bettering your health, and minimizing the damage that your condition does to your body, while improving your life insurance ratings in the process. Here are some things you should do before you apply.
Visit your doctor as many times as recommended
First, it’s very important that you get regular checkups. If you suffer from a condition causing heart murmurs, you are going to want to make sure your situation doesn’t worsen, and this can only be done by seeing your doctor as often as he or she recommends. Best of all, your agent is going to make a note that you are invested in taking care of yourself, so do yourself a favor and schedule an appointment.
Follow your doctor’s advice on treatment and medication
There’s no point in going to the doctor if you’re not going to do anything they suggest. Ask your doctor what you can do for your heart murmur, and whether or not you need any medication, and then obey their instructions.
Diet and exercise
Whatever your doctor says, it’s probably not going to be “workout less and eat more donuts,” so get a head start by dieting and exercising. Cardiovascular activity of any kind is healthy, whether it’s jogging, bowling, rock climbing, or playing frisbee.
If it gets the heart pumping, it’s good for you. You should also cut out some of the high calorie snacks and replace them with heart healthy foods such as walnuts, blueberries, salmon, tomatoes and spinach.
Make sure your medical records are regularly updated
This doesn’t have anything to do with your health, but it’s still important. If your agent can’t understand your medical records, or isn’t being given the latest information, it’s not going to bode well for your premiums.
Even if you’re in poor health, bad information is better than no information. Have your medical records updated whenever there is a change so that there’s no confusion regarding the state of your health.
Finally, make sure that the rest of your body is as healthy as possible. All of your organs are important, however, if you have heart murmurs, life insurance companies will be paying very close attention to that specific organ.
Don’t give them any reason to suspect it’s working inefficiently. If you have other heart related conditions such as high blood pressure, it will help you and your rates if you control it with medication.
Applying for life insurance with a heart murmur can seem unpredictable, and that’s because it is. Not only because there are an enormous amount of variables that can affect your premiums, but also because every life insurance company looks at heart murmurs differently.
That’s why it’s important to take good care of your health and take the necessary steps before applying to get the best life insurance rates possible.