High cholesterol is one of the most common illnesses in the United States.  According to the CDC, 12% of adults over age 20 suffer from it in America.  If you have high cholesterol you may be wondering if you can still buy life insurance, and what effect it will have on the price.  Luckily, cholesterol is not the only way that life insurance companies determine your overall health.  While high cholesterol can be a sign of serious disease, it is also highly controllable with medication and diet.  Major life insurance companies will not decline someone for cholesterol results alone as long as it is not excessively out of control.  Life insurance companies usually require a cholesterol test as a part of their blood test.

Can you get Life Insurance Coverage with High Cholesterol?

Yes, you can still get life insurance coverage.  Many people have high cholesterol and it does not necessarily mean that you are a high risk for a life insurance company.  All life insurance companies have many clients with high cholesterol because it is so common.  Many drugs can control cholesterol, and people can live a long healthy life even if their cholesterol is a bit higher than doctors prefer.  Most likely, you will only be declined if your cholesterol is excessively high or if you have multiple risk factors along with the high cholesterol.

How Much Will High Cholesterol Increase The Price of Life Insurance?

Eggs notoriously have high cholesterol. Consider skipping them before a life insurance blood test.

You can expect cholesterol that is moderately high (total cholesterol over 200 but under 300) to lower your health rating by one level.  So if you don’t have other health issues and you would have otherwise qualified for a premier rating, you will get a “standard plus” rating.  If you have cholesterol that is very high, where total cholesterol is over 300 and is not being controlled you might expect a worse rating.  It is possible that you will be declined coverage in some cases where you have other risk factors, such as obesity or very high blood pressure.

How much will a lower health rating increase your price? You can expect a price increase of between 15% and 30%.  If you have multiple risk factors besides high cholesterol you can expect a price that is even higher than the best rating.  A substandard rating can increase your price by multiple times, possibly as much as five times as much money!

The key to pricing life insurance is always life expectancy.  If you have no other risk factors, and your total cholesterol is barely over 200, an underwriter may reasonably expect that your life expectancy will not be reduced from that of a healthy person of your age and sex.  In this case, slightly high cholesterol will not increase your price.  If you have other factors that indicate a higher risk of heart diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, and a family history of atherosclerosis and heart attacks, an underwriter will understandably decide that you have a higher risk of dying sooner than normal.  If the mortality tables and underwriting guidelines decide that you have a statistically significant increased risk of dying over a healthy peer, you will pay much more for coverage.

What Factors do Life Insurance Companies Consider when it Comes to Cholesterol

There are three big considerations when life insurance companies look at the cholesterol test.

  • What is the total cholesterol? Total cholesterol of over 200 is considered high and puts the individual at a greater risk of heart disease.  Very high cholesterol of 300 or greater increases the risk of heart disease five-fold!
  • The ratio of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) to high-density lipoproteins (HDL) is also an important number.  If your ratio is over 5, it can double your risk of heart disease.  If you have a ratio over 5, you can expect your health rating to be lowered the same way that it would be if your total is over 200, even if your total cholesterol is not over 200.  Most people with high cholesterol also do not have a favorable ratio, but some do.  A low ratio of under 3 to1 is considered protective and may help you maintain a premier rating if your cholesterol is borderline high.
  • Does your overall picture of health paint a picture of a healthy or unhealthy person.  Many people have multiple risk factors.  Being overweight,  having a high waist circumference, having diabetes, high blood pressure, and a family history of heart disease can add up to a low health rating or a possible decline. Unfortunately, many people with one of these risk factors have others because they are related conditions.  If cholesterol is your only risk factor, you have a good chance of getting a low price on your life insurance.

Which Companies are Best for High Cholesterol?

Each life insurance company has its own set of underwriting guidelines and the “best” company can depend upon your age and sex.  It can also depend upon whether or not you are interested in whole life insurance or term.

For whole life insurance, large companies that have strong track records are always the best.  Not only do their underwriters usually have the best training, but they also pay the strongest dividends over time which will help reduce the total cost of your policy and increase your rate of return.  The best companies for whole life insurance with high cholesterol are:

  • Northwestern Mutual
  • New York Life Insurance
  • American United Life Insurance

For term life insurance, companies that specialize in term products are usually the best bet.  They understand that even with risk factors, most people will outlive their term coverage.  The best companies for term life insurance with high cholesterol are:

These are just generalizations.  A lot can go into the price of your life insurance including your age and sex, and other risk factors.  The best way to get a good price is to work with a good agent or advisor and compare life insurance quotes from many providers.  The price of life insurance can even change by the day as different companies compete with each other.  Even if you have gotten quotes in the past, you should get new ones since prices may have changed.  It is very easy for an experienced agent to run different quotes, and to contact different life insurance companies with the basics of your case to help figure out which one is most likely to extend the best price.

What to do if you Have High Cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol, there are many things that you can do both to become more healthy and to increase your chances of getting life insurance coverage.  Cholesterol is controllable in many ways, and if you show a life insurance company that you are actively working to control it you have a better chance of getting coverage at a great price.  Here are the things the mayo clinic says that you can do to control your cholesterol.

  • Lose weight. Losing weight is correlated with a drop in total cholesterol.
  • Diet.  Eating fewer grams of saturated fat, and eating fewer animal products will lower cholesterol in most cases.  For more information about the effects of diet on cholesterol and the benefits of eating a higher percentage of your calories from vegetables and fruits, is a great resource.
  • Exercise.  Physical activity can increase your HDL cholesterol which will help lower your ratio of LDL to HDL.
  • Quit smoking.  If you stop smoking, you will lower your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease.

Reconsideration if you Lower Your Cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol when you buy a life insurance policy, you are not necessarily locked into your health rating forever.  While you will need documented proof over time, you can request that the life insurance company reconsider your health rating if your cholesterol comes down.  If you make healthy lifestyle changes for a sustained amount of time (usually at least 3 to 5 years), you can lower your cost of life insurance.  Each life insurance company has its own rules around reconsideration, so you will need to check with them to see if it is something they will do, and what will be required of you to prove that you have changed your health and increased your life expectancy!

What is Cholesterol and Why is it Bad?

Your body needs cholesterol to survive.  Cholesterol helps your body manufacture vitamin D, hormones, and digestive enzymes.  Every cell in your body contains cholesterol.  Cholesterol is only a problem when it gets out of control.  Cholesterol is a fat-like substance, that is very waxy in texture.  If you have too much cholesterol, it accumulates in your arteries.  This accumulation is known as atherosclerosis, which can eventually cause your arteries to narrow so much that blood flow is inhibited.  If blood flow is inhibited, it can lead to many problems including heart attack and stroke.  Medline has an excellent overview of cholesterol that contains more helpful information.

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