Heart disease will always flag a life insurance underwriter for the simple reason that a massive heart attack can be sudden and deadly. But an underwriter's concern doesn't begin and end with "the big one."
"Heart disease is not one condition; it’s a conglomerate of many conditions," explains Goldstein. "Certainly, you can see coronary artery disease, but heart disease also includes prolapsed mitral valves and other kinds of alveolar heart disease as well. Each condition has to be looked at separately."
Because the severity and progression of heart disease can be difficult to document, underwriters typically take a second look at the applicant's family tree for guidance.
"Generally, this is associated with immediate family members -- father, mother, sister, brother -- who may have developed heart disease or had a stroke," says Bloom. In addition, our 40-year-old man may be asked to undergo an electrocardiogram prior to becoming insured.
Will heart disease keep you out of the preferred risk class?
"In general, coronary artery disease in a 40-year-old would usually be looked at carefully and could be something that is rated (not preferred)," says Goldstein. "If the heart has significant damage to it so that it is not pumping effectively, it could actually be a situation that is not insurable."