High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure Doesn’t Have to Mean High Premiums

By Peter W. Chao, MD MSc

 

For a lot of clients I’ve come across, many have been putting off applying for life insurance for years because of one thing: they think they don’t have a chance of getting coverage, simply because they have “hypertension.”

 

Hypertension—or HTN in medical terms—is one of the most common conditions affecting millions of Americans today, and each insurer approaches the condition differently when underwriting a life insurance policy.

Some insurers set blood pressure readings alone as the key cutoff scores between an affordable and a more expensive monthly premium, while others look at a larger picture, such as a year of readings, current medications, and patient compliance with their treatment regimen.

 

With that being said, therefore, just because one insurer has the lowest quotes for a life insurance policy does not mean that they will be the one most suitable for your medical history and circumstances, because their underwriting guidelines might be far more strict than you and I believe is reasonable.

For example, one client who was 48 at the time of his application had a difficult time finding affordable coverage because he has a family history of high blood pressure, has relatively higher readings of 150/80, and yet leads a very healthy and active lifestyle with a low-salt diet, minimal medications and is otherwise lean and fit for his age.

 

How I was able to find him coverage through North American was by reviewing his medical records and viewing the overall picture of him, along with pointing out some salient facts about this particular client’s medical condition: the diastolic pressure says much more about overall prognosis than the systolic pressure does.

 

You see, blood pressure has two readings: the first number (systolic) and the second number (diastolic). The two readings are taken upon your heart’s contraction and relaxation for the next cycle. For those with a higher systolic reading, that may raise some eyebrows but physicians are more concerned with your diastolic pressure—that is, the blood pressure in your vessels when your heart relaxes. A high diastolic pressure in the 90s or 100s will be much more concerning than systolic, for it is correlated with a higher risk of stroke due to other concomitant conditions that may be rendering the vessels stiffer than otherwise, such as hypercholesterolemia or hyperlipidemia.

 

Given the client’s relatively well-controlled readings hovering around 140-150 over the low 80s, it was not entirely concerning to me—nor to his family practitioner—that his systolic pressure was above 140. He was only taking metoprolol without any diuretics, has no family history of stroke and is trying to stay as active as possible given his love of running and the outdoors.

 

Armed with all of this information, I wrote a cover letter describing his lifestyle, medical compliance and attention to his well-being, and lo, the underwriter at North American agreed to write him a Preferred rate of just $78.40 a month for a $500,000 term policy, which is outstanding.

 

The moral of this story? That a deeper understanding of medicine along with the dedication to fully understand your client’s condition is what provides real value to consumers; not necessarily just the lowest quote or a smooth sales pitch.

 

In life knowledge is power, and in life insurance the proverb is just as apt.