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What the Life Insurance Health Exam Tests For


If you’re planning on buying life insurance, one thing you need to be prepared for is the health exam. This is part of the underwriting process and the insurance company uses it to decide whether to issue you a policy and what premiums you’ll pay.

As long as you’re in good health, the exam shouldn’t be a barrier to getting life insurance. If you’re concerned about whether you’ll qualify, read on to find out what you can expect.

What the Exam Involves

medical-exam-giving-bloodThe exam itself is fairly quick and usually takes less than an hour. The insurance company schedules it for you and it can be done in a doctor’s office or a health care technician may be sent to your home.

If you haven’t already filled out a medical questionnaire, you’ll do this before the exam begins. TThe questionnaire asks about things like your family's medical history, previous illnesses, injuries, and tobacco use.

From there, the person who’s conducting the exam will take some measurements, including your:

The next step is a blood sample. Some insurers also ask for a urine sample. If you’re older or you’re trying to get a larger policy, an electrocardiogram or EKG may also be required.

What you’re being tested for

The purpose of the exam is to make sure you’re healthy so that the life insurance company isn’t taking on too much risk to insure you. Here’s a rundown of the specific health issues they’re looking for.

Heart disease – Your heart health is extremely important to the insurance company and one of the things they’ll try to gauge is your risk for a heart attack or stroke. The exam measures your cholesterol levels, your ratio of good vs. bad cholesterol, and the amount of triglycerides or fat there is present in your blood.

High cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, and a high ratio of bad cholesterol or low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are often precursors for heart disease. The better your numbers are, the better your chances of getting approved for life insurance.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you’re taking medication for high blood pressure, this will show up in the urine test. High blood pressure by itself won’t disqualify you from getting covered but it may mean paying a higher premium.

Kidney and bladder issues – The insurance company also wants to make sure that your kidneys and bladder are functioning normally. They do that by looking for the presence of certain enzymes and proteins such as creatinine that could point to infections or kidney disease.

Liver disease – Your liver does the hard work of filtering your blood and you need the right balance of liver enzymes to stay healthy. A blood test can pick up on whether your enzyme levels are too high or too low, which can be a sign of liver disease, malnutrition, or damage related to alcohol use.

Diabetes – The pancreas helps regulate your blood sugar so the insurance company will take a close look at your glucose levels. A high concentration of glucose in your urine could mean you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Tobacco use – Smokers are more at risk for having a heart attack or stroke so the insurance company will check for nicotine levels in your blood. Cotinine, the key ingredient in nicotine, can also be detected through saliva or hair samples so be prepared to hand them over if the insurance company asks.

STD's - The blood test will look for sexually transmitted diseases as these can be seen as a risk factor when determining the rate class of the applicant.

HIV – One last thing the health exam may test for is the presence of HIV.

How to prepare

When you’re gearing up for a life insurance health exam there are a few things you can do to make sure you get the best results possible. In the week leading up to the exam, you’d want to cut back on salty or fatty foods as much as possible. Limit how much sugar you’re eating and swap out a carb-heavy diet for things like lean proteins and leafy vegetables.

You’d also want to hold off on the caffeine and alcohol and replace them with plenty of water instead. Skipping cigarettes and exercise for at least 12 hours before the exam is a smart idea if you’re concerned about your blood pressure being elevated. Finally, make sure you get a good night’s sleep the day before.