Life Insurance and Aortic Stenosis

Jeff Root Jeff Root Posted in Heart
Last updated on May 2, 2019

Think of your heart as an engine running a machine. All of the parts of the engine need to be functioning properly in order for the machine to run.

When your heart isn’t firing on all cylinders, so to speak, your blood cannot carry oxygen to the 75 trillion cells in your body, and your body cannot perform its normal functions.

How Aortic Stenosis Affects Life Insurance

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  1 in 4 deaths in the United States are related to heart disease.

This means that, once your body’s “check engine” light comes on, it is going to also raise a red flag for life insurance companies.

There are many forms of heart disease, but today we are going to discuss aortic stenosis and the information your insurance agent will need to know in order to help you obtain the best life insurance ratings possible.

What Is Aortic Stenosis?

Aortic stenosis is a condition in which the opening of the aortic valve narrows.

If you’ll recall from the previous article on aortic regurgitation, the aortic valve is one of two valves that controls the flow of blood from the lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles, to the rest of the body.

During aortic stenosis, the aortic valve narrows considerably, making it difficult for oxygenated blood to flow throughout the circulatory system.

When oxygenated blood flow is obstructed, the heart works harder to pump blood throughout the system. This causes the left ventricle system to work harder in order to increase blood flow, the muscles in the left ventricle to thicken.

Calcium deposits on the aortic valve are typically pointed to as a cause for the disease. These deposits are typically side effects of a common condition called atherosclerosis, or a buildup of cholesterol along the artery walls.

Heart muscle disease, also known as cardiomyopathy, can also lead to the thickening of the muscle around the aortic valve, obstructing the flow of blood.

Electrocardiogram, or EKG, scans are used to discover aortic stenosis, as most individuals with the condition experience no symptoms.

For those individuals who experience symptoms of aortic stenosis,

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain associated with exertion
  • Fainting spells

Underwriting Aortic Stenosis

Just like aortic regurgitation, aortic stenosis is evaluated by insurers based on the severity of the condition, its cause and the age the applicant was at the time of diagnosis.

If a proposed applicant’s aortic stenosis is caused by a congenital defect, is mild and is unlikely to accelerate quickly, he or she will most likely earn Standard ratings, although table ratings are also common.

For those individuals who experience aortic stenosis due to degenerative causes, ratings will vary. For these cases, aortic valve replacement surgery may be required, and coverage may be postponed or declined, depending on the timeliness of the surgery and how far the degenerative effects have progressed.

Like aortic regurgitation, aortic stenosis will be evaluated based on three categories: severe, moderate and mild. Symptoms, EKG readings, heart enlargement, and echocardiogram will all be assessed and placed into one of these three categories. The age range of the applicant will matter, especially for mild and moderate classifications.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of mild and moderate cases:

  • Patient-reported symptoms: for both “mild” and “moderate” classifications, patients will rarely exhibit symptoms
  • Electrocardiogram findings: mild classifications are often normal, and moderate classifications will reveal high voltage and variations in waves
  • Heart enlargement: for “mild” cases, there could be no enlargement or up to 15% of that enlargement; for “moderate” cases, heart enlargement up to 25% with pulmonary congestion is common. For mild cases, hypertrophy or enlargement is shown in the left ventricle.
  • Echocardiogram results: These results can vary widely, but for mild to moderate cases they will typically reveal the following
    • Normal left ventricular function
    • An increase in left ventricular wall thickness, between 1.1 cm and 1.5 cm
    • An increase in valve gradient, between 20 and 80mm

For severe classifications, almost any age range will be declined for coverage. In severe cases, EKG readings will exhibit drastic changes in waves, the echocardiogram may reveal decreased ventricular functioning and heart enlargement may also be seen. Additionally, applicants may experience symptoms such as chest pain and breathlessness.

An Expert Agent Can Help

If any of these scenarios apply to you, please give us a call as soon as possible, so that our agents can direct you to alternative forms of life insurance coverage.

Your life insurance agent will want to know if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with aortic stenosis or any ailments that may exacerbate the illness, including:

You will also need to provide the most recent results of several cardiovascular tests, including your EKG findings, stress test results, echocardiogram images, cath reports and a history of any surgery for valve replacement, bypass or angioplasty.

Your agent will also want to know if you have any additional conditions that may increase your risk.

If you have aortic stenosis, you can find life insurance to suit your needs; you simply need the help of a life insurance expert.

A trusted life insurance agent will be able to assess your situation and accurately portray your risk to life insurance underwriters. While a heart condition may increase your overall risk, it doesn’t have to prevent you from finding life insurance.

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