Last Updated: August 2020
Most life insurance companies require a medical exam to rate your health class before you can purchase a policy.
This medical exam has a big impact on the rates you will ultimately pay for life insurance. If your medical exam shows that you’re healthy for your age, then you will pay lower rates.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of performing well on the medical exam. Below, we will cover how the medical exam works, and show you helpful tips to prepare for your life insurance medical exam.
- How the Life Insurance Medical Exam Works
- How to Prepare for a Life Insurance Medical Exam
- 21 Tips to Get the Best Results from Your Medical Exam
- Different Life Insurance Companies View the Medical Exam Differently
How the Life Insurance Medical Exam Works
When you apply for a life insurance policy, the carrier will set an appointment for you to complete a medical exam.
Medical exams are administered by a licensed medical professional, known as a paramedic. The paramedic will contact you to set up a convenient time to come to your home or office.
The exam typically takes 30 minutes and the paramedic will bring their own supplies. In addition, the medical exam is paid for by the insurance carrier and you are not required to purchase life insurance through that specific carrier.
Here is what the paramedic will usually collect for a life insurance medical exam:
- Blood sample
- Urine specimen
- A blood pressure reading
- An electrocardiogram or EKG (sometimes)
- Answers to health questions
They will send the blood off for a blood test. It’s best to have available the name and contact information of your primary care physician and any other healthcare providers with whom you consult, in addition to a list of any prescription drugs you take.
How to Prepare for a Life Insurance Medical Exam
The following are some helpful tips in order to achieve the best possible outcome for your life insurance medical exam:
Three Days Prior to the Medical Exam
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can elevate your liver enzyme levels adversely impacting the liver function test that the insurance carrier runs from the blood sample collected.
- Minimize the use of salt, excess fatty, and high-cholesterol foods.
24 Hours Prior to the Medical Exam
- Get plenty of rest and relaxation.
- Avoid overly strenuous activities and exercise which can cause elevated protein in the urine.
- Avoid nasal decongestants, aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen.
- Limit intake of caffeine.
8 Hours Prior to the Medical Exam
- Fast. You can drink water, but don’t eat food or drink anything else.
Consider scheduling your exam in the morning, preferably upon waking. Not only does this make the 8-hour fasting easier, but your body is most relaxed in the morning, giving you more favorable readings.
True story: My Dad had a cup of coffee, smoked a cigar, and received a negative phone call all before he took his medical exam. Needless to say, he received an unfavorable outcome from the insurance company.
Paramedic exams are quick and easy and shouldn’t deter you from applying for life insurance. If a medical exam is an issue, we can recommend life insurance with no medical exam.
21 Tips to Get the Best Results from Your Medical Exam
If you haven’t scheduled your exam yet, you can take a couple of months and make some changes that you save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your life insurance policy.
If you want the cheapest life insurance, you must focus on your health. Here are 21 things you can do in the months leading up to the medical exam.
#1 Quit Smoking
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 for Your Medical Exam
Give yourself enough of a cushion to make changes to your lifestyle before the exam that can help you get better results.
We don’t imagine that you’ll be able to lose 100 pounds instantly. 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 levels.
#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 glucose 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. When applying for life insurance with alcohol use, it’s important to be honest about your alcohol consumption as well.
#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 on 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 Before Your Exam
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, which could 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 and 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 begins.
#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 to only 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 levels even though it may raise your “good” cholesterol levels even more. You should avoid shellfish altogether ahead of your medical exam just to be safe.
If you’re applying for life insurance with high cholesterol, you should see your doctor about lowering your cholesterol to reduce your life insurance rates.
#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 normal consumption of poppy seeds does not usually 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.
#16 Lose a Little Weight
Again, we don’t expect you to lose a ton of weight before the exam. But 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. Life insurance for overweight or obese people is more expensive, and most carriers have specific height and weight ranges you need to meet.
#17 Schedule Your Medical 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 Your Menstrual Cycle
If you are 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
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!
That is a chilly way to start the day, but if it can help you save money on life insurance, we are all for it.
Different Life Insurance Companies View the Medical Exam Differently
Remember that each life insurance company will have different standards for the medical exam.
One company may decide that you are healthy enough for their preferred rates, and another might give you preferred plus life insurance rates, even if they’re looking at the same medical exam results. That is why it’s so important to compare multiple carriers.
You can start comparing the best life insurance companies by using our quote tool on this page or giving us a call.
We have worked with over 60 life insurance carriers, and are able to shop your application around for you with only one medical exam.