Buying Life Insurance with High Cholesterol: Your Ultimate Guide
Buying life insurance with high cholesterol is not as daunting as it might seem. In fact, life insurance companies evaluate high cholesterol much differently than your doctor does. And if you’re on medication for high cholesterol, they are okay with that, too.
More than 94 million Americans ages 20 and older have higher-than-healthy cholesterol levels, making it one of the more forgivable health problems in insurers’ books. So, don’t let high cholesterol prevent you from seeking financial protection for your family.
It is indeed a health concern that needs to be managed proactively, but unless your cholesterol is so high that you are in imminent danger, it is not a deal-breaker for life insurance.
Here’s what we'll cover in this post:
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Here’s what we'll cover in this post:
Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
There is good cholesterol, and then there's bad cholesterol. The good cholesterol is called “HDL” (short for high-density lipoprotein) and can actually reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Low-density lipoprotein, or “LDL,” is the bad cholesterol that contributes to plaque buildup in your arteries, putting you at a greater risk for a heart attack or stroke. If you have trouble remembering which is which, it might be easier to think of it simply as high-density being good (think, "h" stands for "happy") and low-density being bad.
The combined amount of HDL and LDL in your blood, plus triglycerides (a type of fat that your body uses for energy) is your total cholesterol reading that your doctor gives you. A high level of triglycerides combined with either high LDL or low HDL is also considered a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. A blood test called a lipid profile is used to measure your total cholesterol.
In Life Insurance, It’s All About the Ratio
Doctors usually consider total cholesterol over 200 to be high or elevated. Meanwhile, insurance companies will often accept applicants with total cholesterol of 275 or 300 at Preferred Best rates—the highest rate class available (say what?!). Why the discrepancy? How can someone with significantly elevated cholesterol get the best prices on life insurance?
Insurance companies evaluate your cholesterol ratio rather than only looking at the number. This is measured by dividing your total cholesterol by your HDL. So, if your cholesterol is 200 and your HDL is 40, the ratio is 5.0.
In insurers’ eyes, your elevated cholesterol of 200 is attributed to good cholesterol, which makes you healthier than an applicant who also has a cholesterol level of 200 but with an HDL level of 20 that equates to a ratio of 10.0.
Controlling Your High Cholesterol with Medication is a Good Thing
Many people with high cholesterol who call us looking for life insurance believe that insurance companies will see that they are on cholesterol medication and instantly reject their application. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Being on cholesterol medication means that you are treating your condition, which life insurers are happy to see.
Lower cholesterol—even achieved with medication—means a lower risk of heart attack or stroke, which means you are a lower overall risk to the insurance company, which means the insurance company can offer you a better rate on life insurance.
To be perfectly honest, insurance companies don’t have much interest at all in the fact that you are taking cholesterol medication, as long as it is working. They care more about the ratio of HDL to your total cholesterol and your overall health. To sum it up: cholesterol medication = not a bad thing.
Additional Factors in Buying Life Insurance with High Cholesterol
Insurers do a lot of legwork when considering an application. Your high cholesterol is not the only part of your health they are considering; they also look at:
- Current age
- Age at diagnosis
- Blood pressure
- Any hospital visits
- Tobacco use
- General health
This should be another dose of positivity for life insurance applicants with high cholesterol, because it illustrates that insurance companies don’t just see high cholesterol and reject your application. They want to know the full story of your health and lifestyle, and will do the research necessary to determine whether you are generally insurable even with high cholesterol.
If you are in excellent health overall, but your cholesterol prevents you from qualifying for Preferred Best rates, some life insurance companies will assign underwriting credits to improve your rate class. An underwriting credit is when a positive health factor offsets a negative one.
One of the companies we work with most frequently—A+ rated insurer, Banner Life Insurance—encourages applicants with high cholesterol to apply for underwriting credits by meeting three of the following seven conditions:
1. No tobacco use in the last 10 years
In many cases, no tobacco use for the past five years is acceptable. The longer you have gone without tobacco, the better. If you have never been a smoker, this is almost a freebie for you.
2. A cholesterol ratio of 4.5 or less
To calculate your ratio, take your overall cholesterol number and divide it by your HDL, also known as your “good” cholesterol number. For example, if my cholesterol is 210, and my HDL is 63, my total cholesterol ratio is 3.33 because 210 divided by 63 equals 3.33.
3. A healthy lifestyle
If you exercise regularly and eat relatively well, and if you have annual checkups each year confirming you are in good health, an underwriting credit may be available.
4. Favorable family history
There are some things in life insurance that are out of your control, such as your family history. Life insurance underwriters always consider your lineage to identify any potential risk factors. If you’re going to qualify for a credit, they will want to see that both of your parents lived to age of 75 or older. Additionally, if you have any siblings, the insurance company will check to see if they had cancer or cardiovascular disease before the age of 60.
5. Normal cardiac function
If you have had a cardiac test completed within the last two years and the results were normal, you may be eligible for underwriting credits thanks to your proactivity with your health screenings. Examples of cardiac tests include a stress echocardiogram, a nuclear or perfusion stress test, a CT angiogram, or a cardiac angiogram.
6. GGT level below 30
GGT is a liver enzyme that becomes elevated when the liver is diseased or has suffered trauma. When an individual’s GGT levels are elevated, but no other liver enzymes are elevated, it is an indication of excessive alcohol use or alcoholic hepatitis. If your GGT is below 30, this indicates that your liver is in good health and is functioning normally.
7. NT Pro BnP under 100
NT Pro BnP is a marker in the blood that indicates if an individual is at a higher risk of having acute congestive heart failure. This test is more common in men after the age of 60. According to the New York Heart Association, a NT Pro BnP score of 100 or less indicates that an individual is an extremely low risk for congestive heart failure or renal failure.
We recently worked with a woman who called us about three months before her planned retirement date to purchase life insurance for pension maximization.
Her cholesterol ratio was considered to be elevated (6.4), which would typically qualify her for a Standard Plus rate class. However, she had not smoked within the last 10 years, exercised regularly, and had favorable family history. In light of this information, Banner was able to credit her one rate class to Preferred, which saved her more than 20 percent on the cost of her life insurance.
How Much Can I Expect to Pay for Life Insurance with High Cholesterol?
To help you determine how much you can expect to pay for a term life insurance policy, we’ve included some sample rates from a handful of the A+ (Superior) rated life insurance companies that we represent. These rates are available to otherwise healthy applicants with a cholesterol ratio of 5.0 or less and a total cholesterol of 300 or less.
Sample Rates For an Applicant With a Total Cholesterol of 300 or Less - 10-Year Level Term
*These rates are accurate as of 06/30/2022 and are provided for illustrative purposes only.
To obtain an accurate quote based on your actual age and health profile, please feel free to call us at 855-247-9555 or request a free online quote below. Our shopping services are free, and there is no cost to apply for coverage.
Types of Life Insurance with High Cholesterol
Controlling your high cholesterol opens you up to just about any type of life insurance policy you might need, including:
Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance is typically the most affordable type of life insurance policy and offers guaranteed premiums for a set initial period, known as the “term.” It is purchased to cover a short term insurance need (10-30 years) rather than last a lifetime.
Whole Life Insurance
Whole life insurance offers lifetime protection, with fixed premiums and guaranteed cash value accumulation. This type of insurance typically costs more than any other type of policy because of the guaranteed payout to your family upon your death. Since it is very expensive, it is also the easiest type of life insurance to qualify for with high cholesterol.
Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance (GUL)
Guaranteed universal life insurance is like a cross between term life and whole life. It does not build cash value like a whole life policy, which allows you to keep your monthly payments low. Instead, a GUL policy offers fixed premium rates through the life of the policy, just like a term policy—except while term policies offer fixed rates for a specific number of years (10, 15, 20, 25, 30), GUL policies are set to specific ages (90, 95, 100, 105, 110, and even 121).
Shop the Market
When buying life insurance with high cholesterol, it’s extremely important that you work with an independent agent like JRC to shop the market and compare rates from different carriers. The larger insurance companies are often far less lenient with applicants who have high cholesterol than smaller but equally reputable companies.
Don’t let a big-box insurer tell you that you have to pay significantly more for life insurance because of your high cholesterol. That might be true for their company, but not for others.
As independent agents, JRC can shop 63 top rated carriers to help you find affordable coverage, even if you’re on cholesterol medication. Click the button below to get a free quote today, or give us a call, toll-free at 855-247-9555.
Managing Partner and Co-founder
Cliff is a licensed life insurance agent and one of the owners of JRC Insurance Group. He has helped thousands of families of businesses with their life insurance needs since 2012 and specializes with applicants who are less than perfect health. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and the great outdoors.