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Getting Life Insurance If You Suffer From High Cholesterol

It’s a fact.  About one in every eight Americans suffers from high cholesterol, clinically referred to as hyperlipidemia.  And while high cholesterol by itself is not life threatening, it can lead to a whole host of life threatening health problems such as atherosclerosis, which can eventually lead to a heart attack.

Most people with high cholesterol can qualify for traditional life insurance and expect to pay standard rates if they are able to pass a medical exam.  However, it’s best to seek out a life insurance company that is used to dealing with high risk applications instead of more mainstream companies who may not be as willing to insure a person with a potentially life threatening situation. Defining High Cholesterol

Defining High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a compound found in most of the body’s tissues, including a person’s blood and nerves.  It is an important part of cell membranes and plays a vital role in other steroid compounds found in the body.

Cholesterol comes from two sources.

The first is your body.  Your liver is the primary producer of cholesterol, and it makes all the cholesterol you need for your body to function properly. The liver delivers cholesterol to all other parts of your body through your bloodstream.

The second source you get cholesterol is through your food.  It is found in foods from animal sources, including poultry, meat and full fat dairy products.  When you ingest foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, your liver also has a tendency to produce more cholesterol as well.

Cholesterol does not dissolve in the blood.  It must be carried to other parts of the body by lipoproteins.  There are two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol.  They are low-density lipoprotein, more commonly referred to as LDL, and high density lipoprotein, known as HDL.

LDL cholesterol is considered the undesirable type because it contributes to a build-up of plaque in a person’s arteries.  Plaque is a thick and hard substance that makes arteries less flexible and narrows the arterial passages.  When this narrowing takes place, it is known as atherosclerosis.  If the build-up is significant enough, a clot may form in the narrowed artery, and when the blockage is significant enough, a stroke or a heart attack can result.

HDL cholesterol works to remove LDL cholesterol from arteries and it is therefore considered good cholesterol.   HDL carries LDL back to the liver where it breaks down and is expelled from the body.  High levels of HDL protects a person against atherosclerosis, strokes and heart attacks.

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood stream and when those levels are high, they can also lead to atherosclerosis.  High levels of triglycerides are generally caused by obesity, a lack of physical activity, smoking, poor diet and high levels of alcohol consumption.  In other instances, high triglycerides are caused by other diseases such as diabetes or genetic disorders.

LDL and HDL levels combine with Triglycerides to give a person a person their overall total cholesterol count.  This is the number you’ll get when you’re tested at your doctor’s office, which the American Heart Association recommends that you do every four to six years once you become an adult.

Doctors will use your cholesterol numbers to develop a risk profile that will attempt to predict the likelihood of you having a heart attack, stroke or another related medical issue.  This profile also helps insurance companies decide on what kind of risk you are when you apply for life insurance.

Test results are delivered broken into several components.

  • For a total blood cholesterol level, you are considered high risk if your number is 240 mg/dL and above. You are considered a borderline risk with a total number that falls between 200-239 mg/dL.  Anything under 200 mg/dL is considered a desirable number.
  • An LDL level of 190 mg/dL or above is a red flag that a person is at high risk for heart disease and that they should undertake several steps immediately, including lifestyle, diet and medication therapy to reduce the risk. For levels of 189 mg/dL or lower, a doctor will look at other lifestyle factors before deciding what kind of treatment is warranted, if any.
  • For HDL cholesterol, a person is considered at high risk with levels less than 40 mg/dL.

Triglyceride levels of 500 mg/dL or above are considered very high risk. Normal levels are accepted to be 150 mg/dL or less.

Getting Life Insurance If You Have High Cholesterol

While test numbers that show a high cholesterol rating will carry considerable sway when determining if a person should qualify for a life insurance policy, and under what rating class, insurers will also look at other factors related to high cholesterol.

  • Family history, especially as it relates to stroke and heart disease
  • Blood pressure, which can be used to determine in part, if atherosclerosis exists
  • Gender, age and weight, so that your statistics can be compared to others in actuarial tables
  • Race
  • Are you a currently a smoker, or have you ever been a smoker
  • Current diet and exercise regimens
  • Do you have diabetes and what is your family’s history related to diabetes

In a best case scenario, if a person is shown to have high cholesterol levels but no other medical symptoms are present, and that person is taking steps to control their cholesterol through diet and exercise without the use of medications, they can expect to receive a rating of “standard”.  If high cholesterol can only be controlled through the use of medication, then a person’s rating will drop to a “mild substandard” rating.  If additional symptoms present themselves, such as already being diagnosed with atherosclerosis, then a person will probably earn a “medium substandard” rating.  As the ratings drop, a potential insured can expect bumps up in their premiums.

Other things that life insurance companies may look at when high cholesterol is present include:

How long a person has lived with the condition.  The longer a person has had high cholesterol, the greater the possibility is that they may be on the path to developing atherosclerosis or other related complications.

What medications, if any, is a person taking to control their condition.  While it’s not a good sign that medications are required, the fact that high cholesterol is being controlled will work in a person’s favor to some degree.

What are the results of your most current cholesterol tests?  If you can show good numbers from tests within the past six months, this will work in your favor in terms of reduced premium costs.

Have you had any symptoms related to high cholesterol in recent months.  Insurers will want to know if you have had any dizziness, loss of vision or tingling, which are all signs of plaque build-up and a decreased oxygen supply.

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