High cholesterol is a common health condition in Canada, with roughly 40 percent of adults classified as having high levels. Pre-existing conditions like high cholesterol will affect your life insurance rates, but you can still get affordable life insurance, especially if you are otherwise in good health.
This does not mean you should not take high cholesterol seriously since it can lead to other health conditions like heart attack and stroke. Taking active measures to lower your cholesterol levels, such as eating healthy, exercising regularly, and taking medication, can increase your chances of buying life insurance at an affordable rate, improve your overall health, and help you live longer.
How Life Insurance Companies Assess Cholesterol
Cholesterol is not an inherently bad substance for the body and is used for things like building cells and making hormones. However, too much cholesterol is a health concern since it can clog the arteries and increase the risk of a heart attack.
When looking at your health profile, life insurance providers are primarily concerned with two numbers in relation to your cholesterol:
- Your total blood cholesterol level.
- The ratio of your total cholesterol to your HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Most doctors consider a ratio below 5:1 to be good, while a higher ratio may cause concern for life insurance providers. If an insurance company needs to see your whole cholesterol profile, they may also ask about the following:
- Your LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol because it can build up in your arteries, causing them to narrow and harden.
- Your triglycerides, which are another type of fat in the blood. Having high triglycerides and high LDL cholesterol levels can increase your risk of other health conditions like heart attack and stroke.
Most people with high cholesterol still pay competitive rates for life insurance, especially if they are taking active measures to lower their cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes and medication.
Why High Cholesterol Affects Life Insurance Rates
Cholesterol inhibits blood flow throughout your body. Therefore, if left untreated, it can lead to other more critical health conditions like chest pain, heart attack, or stroke. Insurance companies assess your complete medical profile to determine your risk to them and the premiums you will pay. The fewer medical conditions you have, the less severe they are, and the more steps you take to manage them, the lower your insurance rates will be since you pose less risk to the company.
How to Lower Your Cholesterol
The good thing about high cholesterol is that it is reversible. Small lifestyle changes can go a long way in lowering your cholesterol levels and improving your overall health, which, in turn, increases your chances of obtaining an affordable life insurance policy.
Healthy Diet – Saturated fats, mainly found in full-fat dairy products and red meat, are not good for your cholesterol. The same goes for trans fats, primarily found in store-bought cakes, cookies, and crackers. Reducing your intake of saturated fats and trans fats and adding more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fibre to your diet can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
Regular Exercise – Exercise can improve your HDL cholesterol level by up to 20 percent and reduce your LDL cholesterol level by up to 15 percent. If you exercise regularly, you can expect to see noticeable changes in your LDL cholesterol level after just 4 to 6 months, while changes in your HDL cholesterol levels take a bit longer at 9 to 12 months.
Weight Loss – High cholesterol and being overweight is a bad combination, but shedding extra pounds can make a huge difference. Reducing caloric intake while adding physical activity will greatly improve your overall health, including your cholesterol.
Medication – While there are several natural ways to go about lowering your cholesterol levels, medication can boost the effect. It can also be useful in applying for life insurance since providers will look to see that you are taking action to manage your high cholesterol.
Limit smoking and alcohol – Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and can also lead to high cholesterol levels. Quitting smoking can help reduce the risk of heart disease and also lower cholesterol levels. Drinking too much alcohol can also raise cholesterol levels. Therefore, it is important to limit alcohol intake to moderate levels. The American Heart Association recommends no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.
High cholesterol is a health concern since it can increase the risk of more serious conditions like heart attack and stroke. However, you can still qualify for life insurance with high cholesterol, though you may have to pay more than a healthy person of your same age and sex.