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When you apply for a life insurance policy, you’re asked a score of questions: age, sex, weight, family medical history, personal health history, fitness level, smoking habits, avocations, international travel plans, etc. The information you provide helps to determine your life insurance premium. Although you can’t change your age or personal health history, you can affect five health considerations that may impact your insurance premium costs.
Stop SmokingSmoking is responsible for an estimated one in five U.S. deaths, and cigarette smoking kills more Americans each year than AIDS, car crashes, alcohol, murders, suicides, illegal drugs and fires combined, according to the American Lung Association. Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers. (Source: CDC)
It’s no surprise, then, that smoking significantly impacts life insurance premium rates. By quitting, not only will you reduce your life insurance premium, but you’ll potentially add years to your life.
Maintain a Healthy WeightIn 2011-2012, more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults (age 20 and older) were obese according to the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA). In fact, only smoking exceeds obesity in its contribution to total mortality rates in the United States, notes the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By reducing your excess body weight by 5 to 10 percent, you might lower your premium rate, but more important, you may lower your risk of many chronic diseases, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, while improving your quality of life.
Lower Your Cholesterol LevelCholesterol is manufactured in the liver for normal body functions—including the production of hormones, bile acid and vitamin D—and is transported in the blood to be used by the body. According to an American Heart Association report, only 46.6% of adults have ideal cholesterol levels (untreated total cholesterol <200 mg/dL for adults).1
A “desirable” cholesterol level is under 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).2 If you have a borderline-high level—200-239 mg/dl—or a high cholesterol level—more than 240 mg/dl—you’re more at risk for heart disease and will have a higher life insurance premium. To lower your cholesterol level, and, potentially, your premium, follow a doctor recommended diet that’s low in saturated fat. Aerobic exercise and not smoking will also help to reduce your cholesterol level.
Lower Your Blood PressureBlood pressure is the tension or force that is placed on the inside walls of arteries to keep blood flowing through the body. Blood pressure constantly changes, depending on how hard your heart is working.
Blood pressure is measured by two numbers; the higher number, known as the systolic pressure, is the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts and exerts maximum force on the walls of blood vessels during a heartbeat. The lower number, called the diastolic pressure, is the pressure in your arteries when your heart relaxes between beats and fills with blood. Because high blood pressure is a risk factor for so many forms of heart disease, it’s important to get it under control. Maintaining blood pressure within normal range (120/70) reduces your chances of both heart attack and stroke.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, may be caused by risk factors beyond your control such as family history, sex, age or race. If your high blood pressure is caused by one of these factors, you may need medication to help control it. However, hypertension is often related to lifestyle factors that you can control, such as weight, sodium intake, exercise, smoking or alcohol consumption. Work with your doctor to develop an appropriate treatment plan and, over time, you may requalify for a lower life insurance premium.
Monitor Your Health RegularlyPreventive maintenance is the name of the game. Regular health checkups and careful attention to any medical condition you may have, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, will help to keep your health in check.
If you have a policy and improve your health in one of the areas mentioned above, you may qualify for a rate change on your policy. Be sure to speak with your financial advisor about the details of your policy. The more you know about your health, the more proactive you can be. This, in turn, may ultimately impact your life insurance premium.
1Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, Arnett DK, Blaha MJ, Cushman M, de Ferranti S, Després J-P, Fullerton HJ, Howard VJ, Huffman MD, Judd SE, Kissela BM, Lackland DT, Lichtman JH, Lisabeth LD, Liu S, Mackey RH, Matchar DB, McGuire DK, Mohler ER 3rd, Moy CS, Muntner P, Mussolino ME, Nasir K, Neumar RW, Nichol G, Palaniappan L, Pandey DK, Reeves MJ, Rodriguez CJ, Sorlie PD, Stein J, Towfighi A, Turan TN, Virani SS, Willey JZ, Woo D, Yeh RW, Turner MB; on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2015 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;131:e29–e322
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