Life insurance is all about risk, and applying for life insurance means you may have to go through a medical exam.
Due to the risk, your life insurance company wants to have as much information as possible about your health and lifestyle. This is especially true with a serious health condition, like life insurance after a heart attack or life insurance with high blood pressure.
Larger policies with higher face amounts usually require a medical exam, and if you're in great health you may save some money by voluntarily taking an exam.
Tip: Want to skip the exam all together? Check out the No-Exam Options.
With the following practical medical exam tips you can ensure the best possible results on your exam. These are simple modifications that help you try to become healthier ahead of your paramedical exam.
Only one tip is a drastic lifestyle change, so we might as well get it out of the way first.
#1 Quit Smoking
If you smoke, everyone is telling you to quit and they have been for some time. This one seems obvious, however it is the #1 thing you can do to lower your life insurance rates.
A doctor will notice a lifetime, or even a few years, of smoking unless it’s been a while since you quit. If you can go without smoking, you have better chances of an improved medical exam and lower life insurance rates.
In fact, depending on your case, some insurers won’t cover you if you smoke. Nonetheless, the odds of you having a standard or substandard rate, as opposed to preferred or plus, are high if you smoke.
Nicotine will show up during your life insurance medical exam, and the levels are very important to an underwriter.
#2 Plan Ahead
Give yourself enough of a cushion to make changes to your lifestyle before the exam that can help you get better results. Again, we don’t imagine that you’ll be able to do anything crazy like lose 100 pounds.
However, the longer you can manage your eating and exercise habits the more they appear in the exam’s results. Even a couple of days of eating right and adding activity to your life improves your chances of better health and obtaining a lower life insurance rate. Thus, make a plan beforehand and stick to it.
#3 Focus on your Blood Pressure
Cathy Kamhi, an RN and paramedical examiner offers the following tip for the day of your exam:
“Once the blood pressure cuff is on your arm, raise your arm level to your heart. The heart doesn't have to work as hard to pump the blood, and you can see a drop of about 10 millimeters or points. You can also lie down to get a lower reading.”
#4 Avoid Salt
Greasy, fast food is a huge contributor to our sodium intake, as are most junk foods like chips and crackers. If nothing else, avoid these foods for at least three days before the test so that your body can lower your salt and blood pressure.
#5 Avoid Sugar
Sugar can make you more susceptible to developing diabetes, and can wreak havoc on medical exams. Thus, try to limit your sugar intake about a week before the exam so that your body becomes gluclose stable. That way, you might not show any spikes or increased blood sugar levels.
#6 Get Plenty of Rest
Before the test, get plenty of rest and sleep well. If you’re nervous, try to develop relaxation methods to help you sleep. You don’t want to go into the medical exam while groggy as that can throw off your numbers.
This is especially true if your blood pressure is already high or borderline high.
#7 Avoid Alcohol
Not only should you not drink the night before, but you should avoid drinking alcohol for at least a few days before the test. This gives your liver time to remove all of the alcohol from your system and allow your body time to make a full recovery.
At the minimum, you should be alcohol-free for at least two days.
#8 Reduce Caffeine Consumption
For most of us, coffee is our primary addiction. However, too much caffeine can raise our heart rates and blood pressure. While you don’t have to cut it out completely, you should reduce your consumption for a few days leading up to the medical exam.
Avoid coffee the day of the exam and treat yourself to a cup after the exam is over.
#9 Avoid Controlled Substances
It should go without saying that you don’t want to take any drugs before your test, but we are going to say it just in case. If you are on a prescription, then that can’t be avoided. Lifesaving prescriptions are different from illegal drugs or controlled substances.
Drugs that are on the controlled substances list need to be avoided. This is especially true if the substance is illegal.
#10 Don’t Exercise Too Much
While light activity is a necessary part of staying healthy, you don’t want to push yourself too much before the medical exam. This increases your heart rate and could create alternate results that may be detrimental to your life insurance rates.
Do not exercise the day before your exam. Keep your exercises light and simple for a few days before the exam and save the CrossFit for after.
#11 Eat Healthier Beforehand. Focus on Fiber
In the days, or preferably weeks, leading up to your test, you should be eating as healthy as possible. Leafy greens and lean meats combined with reduced fat, sugar and salt ensures that your body is in better shape when the exam happens.
Again, the longer you can do this the more sustainable the results become, so try to make it at least a week or so to get more out of your dietary habits.
#12 Drink Plenty of Water
Most of us don’t drink enough water. That means we are dehydrated and we’re not flushing out enough toxins from our system. Adding more water to your diet helps remove excess salt, sugar, and other minerals from your body so that they don’t cause poor results on your medical exam. At the minimum, increase your water intake for three days beforehand.
#13 Fast 24 Hours Before Your Exam
Get the most accurate results by fasting for about 24 hours before the exam. That way, you don’t throw numbers off by having a blood sugar spike or increased blood pressure due to some food you ate. During this time, try only to drink water so that you can stay as clean as possible.
#14 Avoid Shellfish
Some insurers warn that eating shellfish before your test can raise your “bad” cholesterol rates even though it may raise your “good” cholesterol rates even more. You should avoid shellfish altogether ahead of your medical exam just to be safe.
#15 Avoid Poppy Seeds
Avoid eating poppy seeds, such as those found in salad dressing or muffins, just in case they show up as opium in your system during a blood test. Trace amounts of morphine may show up in your system up to 20 hours after ingesting poppy seeds, even though most cases of normal consumption of poppy seeds do not affect a drug test.
While it’s rare that you will eat enough poppy seeds to test positive for opium, there’s no sense in adding risk if you don’t have to do so.
#16 Lose a Little Weight
Again, we don’t believe that you’ll be able to lose a ton of weight before the exam. If you can manage to shed a few pounds, it helps your overall results.
The differences between standard plus and preferred are usually just a few pounds, so every little bit you can lose will help your chances.
#17 Have Your Exam Early in the Morning
To ensure that your body is in top condition after sleeping and to make it easier with your fast, schedule the exam for first thing in the morning. This way, you get more accurate results and you can focus on the rest of your day afterward.
#18 Don’t Take the Exam During Menstrual Cycle
If you’re a woman, don’t take the test when you’re ovulating as that can sometimes throw off your body’s balance and create undesirable results.
Studies have shown that at the beginning of a menstrual cycle cholesterol levels are lower, so that would be the optimum time to apply.
#19 Practice Relaxation Techniques
It’s normal for people to be nervous during a medical exam, so relax. Think of the beach, the lake, your last relaxing vacation or your “happy place.”
Relaxation can lower your blood pressure and heart rate and one of the best methods of relaxation is deep breathing.
Controlled, deep breathing in and out can help the stresses of the day melt away, thereby lowering blood pressure and lowering your life insurance rates.
#20 Pick a Low Stress Day for your Exam
Stress directly correlates with your blood pressure, and so it's important to schedule your paramedical exam for a lower stress day. Monday's are obviously out while Tuesdays and Thursdays have been shown to be full of stress.
A Wednesday might be perfect for your exam, or a Friday while you are thinking about the weekend. Pick the day for you that is usually stress free.
#21 A Miracle in your Showers
Turn that shower down! Hot showers might feel great, however cold showers may be better for your health. Cold showers have been shown to increase lymphatic circulation, increase cardiovascular circulation, and decrease depression!
Now that is a healthy, chilly way to start the day, however if it can help you save money on life insurance we are all for it.
Jimmy McMillan is the owner of Heart Life Insurance where he specializes in underwriting life insurance with heart problems. He has successfully approved clients with difficult heart issues like heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, angioplasty, multiple stents and mitral valve disorders.