These days, there is insurance coverage available for people with heart conditions like aortic valve disorders. While some people may not be approved for a life insurance policy with these conditions, many of them certainly will.
Millions of Americans have aortic valve disorders. The severity and causes of your disease will determine the type of life insurance and the rate you will get.
What is an Aortic Valve Disorder?
The heart has four valves: mitral, aortic, pulmonary and tricuspid. Blood comes into the heart from the top chamber (atria) and then flows out of the bottom ventricle. The mitral and tricuspid valves open and then quickly shut to move blood from the atrium to the ventricle. The aortic valve moves blood from the left ventricle into the aorta.
Aortic valve disease occurs when the valve between the left heart ventricle and the aorta does not work properly. Since the ventricle is the heart’s main pumping chamber and the aorta is the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood to your body, aortic valve disease can be serious.
Aortic Valve Disorder Causes
Aortic valve disorders are sometimes congenital, meaning they are present at birth. Sometimes the disease results from other conditions such as aortic valve stenosis, a condition in which valve flaps have thickened and stiffened over time.
In some cases, the flaps (called cusps) even fuse together, narrowing the aortic valve opening so that it cannot open fully. Blood flow from the heart is significantly reduced or even blocked.
Sometimes the valve does not close properly, causing blood to flow back into the heart (called regurgitation). The heart then must work harder to pump blood to the rest of your body. Aortic valve disease definitely comes with complications, including blood clots, stroke, arrhythmias, and heart failure.
Aortic Valve Disorder Signs and Symptoms
There are several symptoms that usually become more severe as the disease progresses:
- Chest pain or tightness in the chest
- Dizziness or fainting during physical exertion
- Fatigue with increased physical activity
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Abnormal heart beat
- Swollen ankles and feet
It is important to note that these symptoms are fairly common in various other conditions, so having them does not necessarily mean you have aortic valve disease. If you do have any of these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor.
Age is a risk factor for developing aortic valve disease, as is a history of infections that affect the heart and a history of having chest radiation therapy. People with chronic kidney disease are more likely to develop aortic valve disorders.
Aortic Valve Disorder Diagnosis
Doctors use a variety of tests to diagnose aortic valve disease:
- Echocardiogram: a test that uses ultrasound to provide a video image of your heart in motion to see how your valve is functioning
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): a test that measures the electrical activity of your heart and can detect abnormal rhythm and enlarged heart chambers
- Chest X-ray: to allow the doctor to see an enlarged heart or aorta as well as calcium buildup on the valve
- Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan: a test that uses X-rays to create detailed images of your heart and valves
- Cardiac MRI: a test that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of your heart to determine the severity of your condition
- Exercise stress test: a test that involves you exercising so that doctors can see how much stress the physical activity places on your heart; the test usually involves running on a treadmill, but patients unable to exercise can do a chemical stress test in which medications can be used to stress the heart and produce the same effects as exercise
- Cardiac catheterization: typically a last resort test used if other tests are not able to diagnose the condition or determine severity; a thin catheter is placed in a blood vessel and into the heart to take pictures
Aortic Valve Disorder Treatment
Treatment for aortic valve disease does depend on the severity of the condition and usually involves monitoring, repair or replacement. If you are not experiencing symptoms and your condition is stable, the doctor will likely monitor your condition and perform echocardiograms twice per year to look for changes in valve function.
If you do have symptoms, medications will be given as an initial treatment to reduce the risk of complications. Eventually, many patients need surgery to repair or replace the valve.
Surgery to repair or replace an aortic valve can be a minimally invasive heart surgery that uses small incisions. However, sometimes a full open-heart surgery is required.
Getting Approved for Life Insurance with Aortic Valve Disease
It’s not impossible to get life insurance when you have a heart condition. In fact, some people are pleasantly surprised when they find out they can still qualify for a good rate. You will have to fill out a more detailed application, but it is definitely worth the extra effort.
A traditional life insurance application requires you to answer several health questions. Because you have been diagnosed with aortic valve disease, the insurance company will need more information.
Be prepared to answer these additional health questions:
- When was your aortic valve disease diagnosed?
- What is the cause (regurgitation, stenosis, etc.)
- What treatment did your doctor prescribe?
- Was surgery required to repair your valve? If so, what type of surgery did you have and when did it occur?
- Are you taking any medications? If so, list types and dosages.
- Do you have any other heart related issues or a family history of these diseases?
You should be prepared to provide information from all your doctors, including your family practitioner, cardiologist, and any other specialists you are seeing.
When applying for life insurance with aortic valve disease, you will need to wait at least a year after your diagnosis to apply. Patients who have been diagnosed within the last 12 months have an increased likelihood of being denied coverage.
Why is this the case? The insurance underwriters want to see that you have followed your doctors’ treatment plan and want to make sure that you are reducing the risk of further health issues by taking care of yourself.
What Rate Can I Expect to Get?
The rate you get will depend on your diagnosis, condition severity, overall health and age. The more severe your heart disease, the higher your premium.
It is extremely unlikely that you will get this rate when you have an aortic valve disorder. Even if your valve causes you no issues now, insurance companies know the condition is progressive, so they are worried about future issues.
Insurance companies typically consider these disorders too serious to offer you a preferred rate either.
Standard rate insurance is probably the best possible rating when you have an aortic valve disorder. This rate is typically given to people age 60 and over.
Younger people with these disorders typically experience heart problems early on, so if you’ve made it to age 60 without significant heart issues, you are less of a risk to the insurance company. Even over 60, your disorder must be minimal and you can only have minimal blood backflow into the ventricle. You cannot have other heart conditions and your overall health must be good.
SUBSTANDARD (TABLE RATING)
More than likely, this is where most applicants get rated with aortic valve disorders. The rating does depend on the severity of the condition, age, overall health and the presence of other heart conditions.
Applicants with severe conditions are typically denied.
Improving Your Chances of Getting Coverage
If you have been diagnosed with aortic valve disease, there are several lifestyle changes you can make that will not only improve your chances of being approved for life insurance, but will also improve your overall health.
Implementing these changes means that you have a better chance of being approved for life insurance when you do decide to apply. This may make the difference in you getting a better rate to reduce the cost of your premium.
Let’s face it, all of us can eat healthier, but if you have heart valve disease, healthy eating can help you in so many ways: losing weight, having more energy and improving other health issues.
Try to limit sodium and sugar intake, and keep alcohol intake to a minimum. Eat plenty of healthy vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats like seeds and avocados. Keep fatty meats to a minimum and eat fish which is rich in omegas.
Following a healthy diet plan and watching portion controls can go a long way toward losing unwanted weight. A healthy weight helps your heart and other issues and helps with your insurance coverage as well.
Being more active definitely helps you qualify for a better insurance rate. Exercise makes your heart pump faster and forces your body to use more oxygen than normal. At a minimum, get 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week.
If the thought of going to the gym turns you off, don’t worry. There is lots more that you can do, like take your dog for a walk, or do walking at the mall or on a track.
If you smoke, quit. This is one of the main things you can do to benefit both your health and your insurance rate. Even if you have perfect health otherwise, the fact that you smoke will automatically mean a higher insurance rate and premium.
Life is stressful, and reducing stress can be difficult. The daily demands of family, work and other things can take a toll. Many people use exercise as a stress buster, or talk with friends or meditate.
Whatever it takes for you to take a few minutes out of each stressful day is worth it. Find something that reduces your stress and stick with it.
If you have aortic valve disease, try to cope with your disease as best you can. Follow your doctor’s treatment plan and take your medications as they’ve been prescribed.
Stay active and keep your stress at bay. Eat a healthy diet, and try to plan ahead so you won’t be tempted to resort to unhealthy fast food.
Doing all these things can help you get a better insurance rate, which may be the biggest stress reducer of all. Are you ready to get started on your life insurance application? Get a quote today!