If you have survived a heart attack, you may find that it is tough to find a life insurance policy. However, it is important to know that it is not impossible. In the United States, heart disease is the number one cause of death and many of those who survive are not aware of the life insurance policy options that are available for them.The AHA (American Heart Association) reports that one in every six deaths is caused by heart disease. Fortunately, there are several life style changes that can be made in order to reduce the risk of a heart attack or to prevent a second heart attack from occurring. The primary causes of heart attacks have not changed in the last 10 years. Obesity, lack of exercise, and smoking are all contributors to heart disease risk.  Therefore they all contribute to higher life insurance premiums, and potentially a lower rating.  Fortunately, even if you have had a heart attack, you can still find an affordable life insurance policy.

Factors that Lead to a Lower Rating

There are several factors that could lead to a lower rating on a life insurance policy. These include:

  • Having a heart attack at a young age
  • Ongoing episodes of chest pain or angina
  • Having more than one heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • Electrocardiogram changes
  • Obesity
  • Decreased function of the left ventricle
  • Uncontrolled hypertension
  • Poor lipid control
  • Complications including arrhythmias
  • Coronary artery disease degree

Depending upon the severity and the number of risk factors above, you may not be able to obtain a traditional life insurance policy.  The only way to pass underwriting is to control your risk factors as carefully as possible.

Improving your Chances

Luckily for you if you suffer from heart disease, even after a heart attack there are some things that will improve your chances of being approved for a policy that is affordable. The first thing to know is that time will matter. Typically, a person will only be offered a life insurance policy after at least 6 months have passed from angioplasty, bypass, or stents being placed. This may vary by insurance company though. However, generally speaking the waiting period after a heart attack will be at least one or two years of having good health before it is possible to pass underwriting.

If you are trying to prove your good health to the life insurance company after a heart attack,, the insurance company will ask for a recent stress test, recent EKG, or a chest x-ray, that will prove that your condition is currently stable.

Lose Weight

Another very important way to improve your chances of getting a life insurance policy after a heart attack is to lose weight. Being overweight puts an undue strain on the heart muscle. How your weight affects your health will depend on several factors including your BMI (body mass index). Your body mass index is a measurement of your weight in relationship to your height. Your BMI is not the only tool that will be used to measure weight. You should check your waist measurement as well. This measurement is important because the amount of stomach fat you have will increase your risk of heart disease.  So a woman that has a waist that measures more than 35 inches, and a man who has a waist that measures more than 40 inches, will both be considered to have a proportionately high (and therefore risky) level of body fat.

If your weight is 20% over what it should be, many doctors will suggest that you lose a significant portion, in order to effectively reduce your risk of heart attack. In fact, lowering your weight by as little as 5 or 10 percent can improve your long term prognosis. Losing as few as 10 pounds may be the difference between be able to obtain life insurance coverage or not, since underwriters have very strict guidelines.  The research is very clear, being overweight increases your risk of death from heart disease, and it also increases the risk of other chronic illnesses such as high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, which will also increase your life insurance premiums and lower your rating.

Stop Smoking

If you use any type of tobacco product, you need to stop using them as soon as possible. Tobacco is absolutely one of the worst things that you can do when you are trying to get a life insurance policy. Smoking not only increases your risk of a heart attack, but of other life threatening diseases such as lung cancer as well.  Smoking is so dangerous that insurance companies have a separate set of risk classes for smokers, and each is significantly more expensive than the comparable class for a nonsmoker.  Smoking after a heart attack is also one of the leading indicators that another heart attack will take place.  If you have had a heart attack and you still smoke, you are not likely to be approved for a life insurance policy.

Steps for Obtaining Life Insurance after a Heart Attack

There are some steps that you can take in order to increase your chances of obtaining a life insurance policy after you have a heart attack. The first thing that you should do after making the above recommended life style changes is to make sure that you document everything from a medical standpoint. Write down all of the details about your heart attack as well as your cardiac history. Make sure that you provide the insurance agent with the procedures, diagnoses, treatments, and surgeries.  The more information available to the underwriters, the higher the chance is that they will feel they can accurately assess the risk you pose.  If they do not feel like they have enough information to accurately judge your life expectancy, they will not know how to price your policy and you will likely not pass underwriting.

For the same reasons, it is very important to make sure that you are honest about your medical history and your medical conditions. A good tip to improve your rating (if you have made positive lifestyle changes) is to have your physician write a personalized letter to provide to the insurance agent.  The letter should document everything that you have done in the past few months to a year in order to improve your health.

The most important thing to do is shop around. There are some life insurance companies that will provide coverage to someone who has had a heart attack, while others will not. Take the time to get quotes from several companies to make sure you get the best policy for the best price.  If you are still unable to obtain a policy, some companies do specialize in no medical exam life insurance policies.  These policies are expensive, but you can obtain coverage without supplying any medical history to the life insurance company.  Only use this as a last resort.

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