Getting affordable life insurance with a diagnosis of high blood pressure is easier than you may think. Life insurance carriers consider your overall health and lifestyle to determine the premium rates. If you are following a healthy diet and exercise plan and taking all your medications as prescribed, high blood pressure may not prevent you from qualifying for affordable rates.
Learn why high blood pressure impacts your premium rates and how you can obtain an affordable policy.
What exactly is high blood pressure?
A blood pressure reading comprises of two numbers, given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
- Systolic pressure (Top number): this indicates the amount of pressure the blood exerts against the artery walls when the heart beats.
- Diastolic pressure (Bottom number): this indicates the amount of pressure the blood exerts against the walls of the artery between heart beats
You have high blood pressure — also referred to as hypertension — if your systolic pressure (top number) is 140 or higher or your diastolic pressure (bottom number) is 90 or higher, or both. The following table provides a classification of blood pressure for adults:
High blood pressure is a fairly common health problem in Canada. Estimates suggest that six million Canadian adults —19% of the total adult population — have hypertension. Though common, high blood pressure is not something to be taken lightly. If left untreated, it can damage your heart, kidneys, arteries, and other organs.
Damage to the heart
When the blood pressure is consistently too high, it can damage the heart and makes you more susceptible to various heart problems, including:
- Coronary artery disease. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can over time damage the arteries and make them narrower. As a result, the blood does not flow as effectively as it should, which in turn can cause irregular heartbeat, chest pain, or a heart attack.
- Left ventricular hypertrophy. High blood pressure increases your heart’s workload. It has to work harder to pump up the blood. This causes the heart muscle of the left ventricle of the heart to thicken. Thickening of the left ventricle puts you at risk of heart failure, heart attack, and sudden cardiac death.
- Heart failure. High blood pressure can cause the weakening of heart muscle overtime. Eventually, the overworked heart starts to fail.
Damage to the brain
High blood pressure can impact the brain in different ways, including:
- Stroke. A stroke occurs when the brain does not get enough oxygen and nutrients. Hypertension can damage the brain’s blood vessels and cause blood clots, increasing the risk for stroke.
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). TIA is a stroke that lasts only a few minutes and as such is called a ministroke. It happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is temporarily disrupted.
- Vascular Dementia. Blocked or narrowed arteries can restrict the flow of blood to your brain, causing vascular dementia.
Damage to the eyes
Hypertension can cause serious eye problems by damaging the tiny blood vessels that are responsible for blood flow to your eyes. These include:
- Choroidopathy. Marked by fluid buildup under the retina, Choroidopathy can cause distorted, blurred, or dimmed vision.
- Retinopathy. When the eye’s blood vessels are damaged, it can lead to blurred vision, bleeding within the eye, and total loss of vision.
- Opticneuropathy. An interruption of blood flow to the optic nerve can damage it, putting you at greater risk for vision loss or bleeding in the eye.
Damage to the kidneys
High blood pressure can harm blood vessels in the kidneys, which, in turn, can lead to various complications, including:
- Kidney failure. Hypertension is the main cause of kidney failure, a condition in which the kidney function is less than 15% of normal. As a result, the kidneys are are unable to remove waste and balance fluids.
- Glomerulosclerosis. Also known as kidney scarring, Glomerulosclerosis occurs when the tiny renal blood vessels become hardened or scarred. Consequently, the kidneys are no longer able to function properly.
- Renalartery aneurysm. A bulge forms in the wall of an artery to the kidney in this condition. If the aneurysm ruptures, renal failure, blood loss, or even death can occur.
The connection between high blood pressure and life insurance
Your health has a big impact on your life insurance rates because it directly correlates with your life expectancy, which refers to the number of years you are expected to live.
It is simple:healthier people tend to live longer. Insurance carriers offer their best rates to healthy people since they have a higher life expectancy. To determine your health, insurers look at the results of your paramedical exam, answers to the health questionnaire that is a part of the life insurance application, and your medical records.
Your premium rates are based on the probability of when the insurance carrier will have to pay out. If you have a higher risk of early death, you will likely pay more for coverage.
High blood pressure can increase the risk of developing severe health problems, in the future. For example, high blood pressure makes you twice as likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack.The longer you have had hypertension, and the more severe it is, the greater the risk of future complications or even premature death. In fact, high blood pressure is one of the top risk factors for premature mortality and as such can bump up your life insurance cost.
According to one study, hypertension before the age 55 increases the risk of cardiovascular death.Another study shows that men with normal blood pressure tend to live 5.1 years longer than those with high blood pressure. Women with normal blood pressure, on the other hand, could expect to live 4.9 years longer.
Having said all that, treating hypertension can prevent future health problems and significantly reduce your risk of premature death. So, if you are managing your condition well by taking all of your prescribed blood pressure medications, you can expect to live a healthy, normal life. Consequently, you may well qualify for a life insurance policy with affordable rates.
Can I get life insurance with high blood pressure?
Yes, you can get life insurance with a high blood pressure diagnosis. Also, life insurance for people having this medical condition is not necessarily expensive. If your blood pressure is moderately high and you are following a comprehensive treatment plan strictly, there is a good chance you will receive affordable rates.
On the other hand, if you have extremely high blood pressure — a systolic pressure of 180 mmHg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 120 mmHg or higher — you are likely to be approved only for higher rates. You may also have to pay more for life insurance coverage if you have other risk factors on top of hypertension. These include tobacco use, a high body mass index, or elevated cholesterol level.
Generally speaking, your life insurance application is unlikely to be declined on account of high blood pressure alone. And, in most cases, you can buy the same life insurance policies available to someone without a pre-existing condition.
Like others, people with hypertension can purchase term life insurance, whole life insurance, or funeral insurance, although they may have to pay extra for coverage. Let’s talk about each type of life insurance in greater depth.
- Whole life insurance
Whole life insurance provides coverage for your entire life and as such is a type of permanent life insurance. On top of lifelong protection, it acts as an investment vehicle. A part of your premium is used for funding an in-built investment component, commonly referred to as cash value. Your policy’s cash value grows tax-deferred, and you can borrow against or make a withdrawal from it anytime you like. Generally, the policy beneficiary receives only the death benefit upon the insured’s death, while the cash value is for the policyholder to spend while they are still alive.
Whole life insurance is more expensive than term life, but it can be a good option for someone with high blood pressure in certain situations. For instance, if you have a lifelong dependent, or if you have maxed out traditional investment vehicles, you may benefit from taking out a whole life policy.
- Term Life Insurance
True to its name, a term life policy provides life insurance protection for a certain term. This can be as short as one year or as long as 35 years. Some term life policies last until a certain age — usually 65. Your beneficiary receives the death benefit only if you pass on during the policy term.
Once the term expires, the policy terminates. However, in most cases, you can renew the policy until a specific age without a medical exam. Term life insurance does not accumulate cash value and hence is the purest form of life insurance.
Term life insurance is a worthy option for people with hypertension if they need to cover financial needs that have an end date, such as income replacement, mortgage, and future expenses, like college fees. Depending on your blood pressure readings and medical history, you may receive higher premiums than someone in good health.
- Funeral insurance
Funeral insurance, also referred as final expense life insurance, provides limited permanent life insurance coverage, and is designed to help surviving families cover funeral expenses and end-of-life medical bills. The benefit amount is usually capped at $25,000 or$50,000.
You do not require taking a medical exam to prove insurability, so you can take out a policy even if you are in poor health. If you have extremely high blood pressure or coexisting conditions, you may not qualify for a traditional policy. In this situation, a final expense policy is your only option to secure some level of coverage.
High blood pressure factors that affect life insurance rates
Life insurance companies will look at three factors related to high blood pressure to assess your insurability and set your premiums.
- Date of diagnosis
- Severity of your condition
- Treatment plan
- Tobacco use
Based on these, you will be assigned a health classification. The healthier you are, the better your health classification and lower your insurance cost.
Age of diagnosis
How old you were when you received a high blood pressure diagnosis can affect your premium rates. If you have had it for most of your adult life, your premiums are likely to be higher than someone who was recently diagnosed. Generally speaking, hypertension is less of a concern in older applicants — those aged 55 or above. Many insurers will offer affordable rates to this group even if they have elevated blood pressure.
Severity of your condition
Life insurance companies will want to know how severe your condition is before they write you a policy. Someone with pre-hypertension or Stage 1 hypertension is likely to be offered better rates than those having Stage 2 hypertension. Those with extremely high blood pressure may have to pay significantly higher premiums and in some cases may even be denied coverage.
Your life insurance company will want to know how well you are managing blood pressure. If you are following a comprehensive treatment plan — involving medication, a healthy diet, and regular exercise — you are likely to be rated more favorably compared to someone who is not doing much to alleviate their symptoms.
Apart from asking which blood pressure medications you are taking, the insurer may ask you questions such as:
- How much caffeine you have in a day?
- Do you consume tobacco?
- Do you consume alcohol? If so, how many alcoholic drinks do you have in a week?
- What is your daily diet?
- How many times a week you exercise and for how long?
The underwriter will assign you a risk class based on your answers to these questions, recent blood pressure readings, and medical history. The healthier you are, the better the health rating and lower the insurance premiums.
Tips for comparing policies for high blood pressure
If you have hypertension, there are several factors you should consider when comparing life insurance plans. These include:
- The death benefit amount
- The cost of coverage
- Whether the policy is whole life or term life insurance
- The policy term and whether the plan includes conversion and renewability clauses, if it is term life insurance
- What riders are available to you
- What the policy does not cover (Exclusions)
- The insurance claim process
You do not need to worry too much if you have high blood pressure and want to take out a life insurance policy. Qualifying for life insurance with high blood pressure is much easier and simpler than many may think. Some applicants may receive higher premiums, but if your condition is well-managed, an affordable policy is not likely to be out of reach. Whether you need a term life or whole life insurance policy, Dundas Life can help you secure the best coverage.
Frequently asked questions
Can you purchase life insurance with high blood pressure?
Hypertension does not disqualify you from obtaining a life insurance policy. As a matter of fact, some providers may even give you affordable rates, particularly if your condition is well-managed.
Why do life insurance companies consider high blood pressure?
A life insurance company assesses insurability and sets premium rates on the basis of mortality risk. Since high blood pressure is linked to severe health problems, such as heart attack, and can even shorten life, an insurer will want to know whether you have it when you apply.
Can I be denied coverage if I have high blood pressure?
Life insurance companies generally do not deny a policy based on high blood pressure alone. You are likely to qualify for life insurance with high blood pressure as long as you do not have any co-existing health issues (such as obesity, high cholesterol level, or heart attack) and are following your physician’s advice for managing your condition. If you do not qualify for a medically underwritten life insurance plan, you can still obtain a no-medical policy. It does not take your health into account, although you are likely to pay higher premiums and receive less coverage.
What are the common questions related to high blood pressure that insurers may ask?
Some common questions you might be asked in relation to high blood pressure include:
- At what age you received a high blood pressure diagnosis? What was your reading at that time?
- Are you taking any blood pressure medications? Ifs o, which ones?
- How often you visit a physician for a health checkup?
- Has your doctor changed your dosage or medications in the last few months?
- What does your daily diet look like?
- Do you exercise regularly?
What if I outlive my term coverage and I still want life insurance?
Term life insurance comes with an end date, but most insurers let you renew your plan without taking a medical exam until a certain age. You can also take out a new policy if you are in relatively good health. As a matter of fact, a new policy is often more affordable than renewing the current term plan for healthy people. Depending on your provider, you may also have the option to convert your term plan into permanent life insurance without submitting proof of good health.