Life insurance rates are determined using a big list of possible health and lifestyle risks. One of those is your risk for heart disease, and a big part of your risk for heart disease is your cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a compound found in our blood that our body uses to build cell membranes and other important hormones, vitamins, and even helps with digesting food. While it is both good and important to have some cholesterol in our blood, too much is a serious problem.
According to the National Institute of Health, cholesterol travels through our bodies in small packages called lipoproteins. These are made up of fats (lipids) on the inside and proteins on the outside.
There are two types of these packages floating around in our bodies: low-density lipoproteins and high-density lipoproteins, known more commonly as HDL and LDL cholesterol. HDL is called “good cholesterol” because it carries cholesterol back to your liver to be filtered out of your body. LDL is called “bad cholesterol” because it can lead to build ups of cholesterol in your arteries.
There are no signs or symptoms of high cholesterol, which is why it is important to test and monitor regularly. It is a problem for both men and women, and health risks associated with high cholesterol become more pronounced with age.
High cholesterol can lead to narrowed arteries and blockages, which can then lead to stroke or heart attack.
The Centers for Disease Control advises that gender, race, and ethnicity may have an impact in your cholesterol. The following shows which groups have the worst risk for LDL cholesterol over 130 mg/dL, the threshold for high LDL cholesterol.
Furthermore, almost half of all American women have high or borderline high cholesterol!
How Does High Cholesterol Affect Life Insurance?
Your total cholesterol is the total of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and very low density cholesterol (VLDL) found in a simple blood test. When you go to the doctor and get your blood drawn for a physical, one of the tests is usually cholesterol.
When you get new life insurance, most insurers require a health examination, including a blood cholesterol test. Which leads us to an important question: does high cholesterol affect life insurance rates? The answer is a resounding yes.
When you sign up for life insurance, you will see different rates for different categories. These categories have names like standard, standard plus, preferred, and preferred plus.
To qualify for a preferred plus rate, total cholesterol should be below the 200-220 mg/dL level and a ratio of total cholesterol/HDL should be less than 5.0. Some companies require that level without medication, but others say that as long as the cholesterol is treated and controlled by medication, anyone with cholesterol in that range can qualify for preferred plus rates.
To qualify for preferred rates, the threshold is around 250 total cholesterol and a ratio of 5.5 or lower. For standard plus, the requirement is around 280 total cholesterol and a ratio of 7.0 or lower. For standard rates the threshold is 300-350 with a ratio at or below 8.0.
At a total cholesterol above 350, you will pay roughly 50% more for life insurance than standard rates. At or above 400, you may not qualify for life insurance at all.
How Can I Lower my Cholesterol?
If higher life insurance rates do not scare you into fixing a cholesterol problem, a risk of heart attack, stroke, and death absolutely should. Fixing high cholesterol before you apply for life insurance can help you lock in a lower rate for the life of your policy, and help you live a longer, healthier life.
The general ways to fix a hypercholesterolemia, the medical term for high cholesterol, are straight forward.
According to the American Heart Association, these are the most important steps to take:
- Healthy Diet
- Regular Exercise
- Manage Blood Pressure
- Lose Weight
- Reduce Blood Sugar
- Stop Smoking
There is no magic formula to lower your cholesterol, however, there are medications that can help you lower your cholesterol if you find that these steps do not work for you. Cholesterol medications do have side effects, sometimes serious, so always work on lifestyle changes before trying to fix your cholesterol with a pill.
The most popular medications to fix high cholesterol are called statins. For individuals with a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease, statins are an effective, inexpensive method to lower cholesterol and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Take a Step to Protect Your Loved Ones
If you want to find out your rate for life insurance and protect your family, there is no better time than the present. High cholesterol insurance rates are higher than rates with well managed cholesterol levels, however, high cholesterol does not automatically disqualify you from life insurance.
Cholesterol is just one factor of may be used to determine your rate category. Work hard to manage your cholesterol, and you will see lower rates when you apply.
What are you waiting for? Take a step to protect your family and apply for life insurance today.