If you have ever heard the term “you are what you eat” and ignored it, you may have been doing yourself a grave disservice.
Particularly if you are looking to lower your life insurance premium.
It’s not unreasonable to enjoy a hamburger or a steak every now and again; however, being aware of what foods you are putting in your mouth may be the key to improving your body weight, your mood and – something you may not think about – your cholesterol.
The latter is incredibly important to underwriters when assessing your risk. High levels of cholesterol can lead to a slew of cardiovascular and general health complications, marking you as a high-risk insurance client.
What Causes Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance – similar to fat – that is found in our bodies and in the food we eat. The levels of cholesterol in our bodies can also be influenced by heredity and the presence of certain diseases such as diabetes.
Cholesterol comes in two forms: high-density lipoproteins (HDL/”good” cholesterol) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL/”bad” cholesterol).
The primary difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol is where it ends up: “good” cholesterol is circulated back to your liver – where it is then flushed out – and “bad” cholesterol builds up in your arteries.
Your body, especially your liver, makes all of the HDL cholesterol you need. This “good” cholesterol is circulated through your bloodstream and is used to make hormones, help you digest your food and to synthesize vitamin D.
The “bad” cholesterol is found in some of the food we eat and is particularly concentrated in dairy products, meats and foods high in both saturated and trans fats. When you eat foods like these, your liver begins to produce more cholesterol.
This excess cholesterol forms a layer of plaque between your artery walls, making it difficult for your heart to circulate blood. This plaque can occasionally break open and cause blood clots, which can be fatal. Blood clots can potentially block arteries feeding the heart, causing heart attacks, or arteries that feed the brain (causing strokes).
The buildup of plaque around your arteries is also known as “coronary artery disease.”
The problem with high cholesterol is that there are often no symptoms, and is often diagnosed via a blood test. It is treatable with the help of certain medications.
Cholesterol and Life Insurance
If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, it is possible to earn a preferred rating with some companies; especially if your levels are 250 of lower.
If your levels of HDL cholesterol are high, you can earn a standard rating, even if your cholesterol levels are up to 299. In many cases, cholesterol levels of 300 and higher are taken on a case-by-case basis and, barring any heart attacks or strokes, will most likely will not prevent you from obtaining life insurance.
Cholesterol measurement is an interesting case for most insurance companies because high LDL levels alone are not necessarily enough to direct an applicant to a table rating or to add a flat extra. Companies have even been known to give applicants credit based on a ration of HDL to LDL cholesterols.
Diet and exercise can reduce the risk of high cholesterol significantly and can earn you better ratings. A diet low in saturated fats, fast food and meat products is instrumental in lowering your cholesterol.
Cutting out refined carbs and processed foods are also helpful in lowering your LDL levels. Additionally, exercise – particularly aerobic exercise – helps you lose weight and eliminate some of the excess LDL associated with obesity while increasing your “good” HDL levels.
Variables to Underwriting High Cholesterol
Like most high-risk diseases, there are a number of variables that influence an individual’s cholesterol levels.
This makes assessing one’s risk a task for underwriters. These factors include:
- The presence of any pre-existing cardiovascular diseases
- An assessment of your height-to-weight ration over the years
- The presence of diabetes
- Your blood pressure history
- Stress levels
- Nicotine use
Perhaps one of the most influential factors taken into consideration during underwriting an insurance policy for someone with high cholesterol is family history.
The most common type of cholesterol is inherited, so proof of a good family history with cholesterol levels may help earn you a better rating with your insurer.
Additionally, alongside your cholesterol, underwriters will also examine something called a “triglyceride level,” which allows them to more accurately estimate your risk. Triglycerides are the fats from food (like butter and margarine) that are carried to the bloodstream.
High levels of triglycerides (over 500) are associated with poor diet and the presence of “bad” cholesterol. These levels spike with food consumption, so fasting is typically done before testing triglycerides in the bloodstream.
Be sure to disclose an accurate picture of your current state of health to your life insurance agent, along with a detailed account of family history of cardiovascular diseases or high cholesterol.
Of the high-risk diseases we’ve covered so far in our blog, cholesterol levels are one of the most easily controlled.
Diet, exercise and monitoring your stress levels could be the key to saving hundreds of dollars on life insurance premiums every year.
High cholesterol levels can be changed, and we know what insurance companies look for when underwriting individuals with this high-risk condition. If you have high cholesterol and are unsure of what this means for you and your life insurance coverage, talk to an agent today.