Life insurers are in the business of assessing risk and any factor that may decrease longevity presents a risk. Often the risk of paying out benefits early may be offset with higher premiums, so understanding how your health can play a role in premiums may give you an idea of what to expect when looking for a provider that fits your needs and budget.
One health risk that can affect rates is high blood pressure. Significant risks are associated with high blood pressure, including cardiovascular diseases, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. In severe cases of high blood pressure, some life insurers may deny coverage but this is typically not the norm. With research and a willingness to comparison shop, those with high blood pressure may be able to find a form of life insurance coverage that provides the financial protections you or your dependents need.
High blood pressure and life insurance
The Center for Disease Control indicates that almost one-half of all adults in the United States (45%) suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension). Less than 25% of this group are considered to have their blood pressure under control. Living with high blood pressure significantly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, which makes those with this condition a greater risk to insure.
Every life insurance company has its own guidelines for assessing different risks. Despite the serious mortality rates associated with high blood pressure, straightforward denials are not commonplace for life insurance providers in most cases. Particularly with medical conditions that can be managed, insurance companies may take into consideration the many ways to control high blood pressure, such as medication and diet. As a result most people with high blood pressure can still find coverage.
High blood pressure factors that impact life insurance
Although each case is unique, there are certain patterns which are evident in the ways in which life insurance companies deal with different types of high blood pressure conditions. These consistencies can help people with high blood pressure better predict and prepare for questions about their underlying health conditions in the application process.
- Blood pressure ranges – Important new medical guidelines issued by the American College of Cardiology in 2017 dramatically reduced the definition of normal blood pressure to readings under 120/80. Prior to these guidelines, normal blood pressure was considered a reading under 140/90. Insurers will typically issue term or whole life coverage for someone with a blood pressure reading under 150/90, although premiums may increase with higher readings.
- Influence of age – Older insurance applicants, those in their 50s and 60s or above, may see more leniency in rates associated with higher blood pressure numbers. Many life insurers will issue regular policies to this group even if their blood pressures are somewhat higher than 150/90.
- General health matters – Life insurance companies will consider high blood pressure in the broader context of your overall health. Lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet and weight will be assessed, and good results can mitigate against the risk of your high blood pressure. Non-smoking, in particular, will generally be a very significant factor in determining risk.
Note that life insurers are typically looking for any positive reasons to write a policy. Before applying, take the time to list in detail all of your healthy habits and positive medical conditions.
Types of life insurance for those with high blood pressure
For the most part, those with high blood pressure, particularly when coupled with otherwise good health, can purchase the same policies as others. The primary difference between a high-blood-pressure policyholder and one with normal readings would be reflected in the rates.
Whole life insurance
Whole life insurance is a form of permanent life insurance, with the insured person covered for the duration of their entire life. The policy provides a guaranteed death benefit (in most cases) and builds cash value over time. This policy is more expensive than term insurance due to the permanency of the policy, and may be even more costly for a person with high blood pressure. For the assurance of financial protections throughout your lifetime, however, the cost may be worth it for your circumstances.
Term life insurance
Term life insurance is not permanent, but rather covers an insured for a defined period (typically between 10 and 30 years), often when the need for financial protection for dependents is at its highest. Term life may be a good option for those with high blood pressure when the primary goal is to leave some fixed amount for loved ones to cover unexpected funeral expenses or outstanding debts like student loans. As with other life insurance policies, premiums may be higher depending upon the severity of the insured’s blood pressure readings.
Final expense insurance
Final expense insurance is a limited scope policy and, as the name suggests, is designed to assist surviving families with funeral and burial costs and other bills. This type of insurance may be the only alternative, particularly for on the more elevated end of the high-blood-pressure spectrum, if whole life or term coverage was not previously obtained. One aspect to consider is that the typical final expense policy has much lower limits than other policies, usually between $5,000 and $50,000.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best life insurance company?
There are undoubtedly a number of life insurance companies that are best for you. As an initial assessment, it is important to look at those companies with a long and stable financial record, a good selection of policies and pricing and a good customer service reputation. Then, obtain several different quotes and compare. Depending on what type of policy you are looking for, you may find better chances of qualifying for competitive rates among multiple carriers.
How can I lower my blood pressure for a life insurance test?
It may be beneficial to take the necessary steps to lower your blood pressure before a life insurance exam, whether you are planning a month or up to several years in advance. Expert recommendations include:
- Exercise or increase general activity levels
- Eat foods rich in potassium and reduce sodium intake
- Meditate or do yoga
- Prioritize quality sleep
What should you not do before a life insurance test?
To prevent increasing your blood pressure, certain things can be avoided — not just prior to a life insurance exam, but as a matter of self care generally. The following could potentially exacerbate high blood pressure:
- Nicotine or smoking
- High-cholesterol food such as red meat
- Antihistamines and nasal decongestants