I started Insurance Blog by Chris™ because I have a passion for insurance. Here at the blog, our job is to educate and inform people about the best insurance for them. Since then, we have grown into national brands with a large team of researchers helping people understand all forms of insurance.

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insu...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 24, 2021

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You feel fine but your life insurance medical exam has some unexpected news: high cholesterol.

Now you’re worried about your overall health and your risk for a heart attack. You’re feeling more mortal than ever. And, your plan to get life insurance to protect your family is in jeopardy too.

Life insurance costs more — or you could even be denied coverage — when you have high cholesterol.

But this isn’t the end of the story. You could still get the coverage you need even as you deal with this frightening diagnosis.

Table of Contents:

Best Life Insurance With High Cholesterol

Since every insurer has its own underwriting criteria, each company deals with high cholesterol differently. The company you choose will impact your ability to get coverage in your price range.

We recommend working with an independent life insurance agent if you have high-risk factors such as high cholesterol. An independent agency can work for you instead of working for the insurance company.

In our agency, we like to work with the following companies when a client comes to us with cholesterol concerns:

RELATED: 5 Critical Tips You Must Know Before Buying Life Insurance

Prudential

We’ve noticed this highly rated company seems open to a conversation about cholesterol. For example, we’ve had applicants with a cholesterol ratio of 6 still get Preferred rates. Standard rates could still be open to some applicants with a ratio of 7.

As a full-service provider, Prudential has term, whole, and universal policies. They also have no-exam coverage but it costs more than average.

Banner Life

Banner, part of the Legal & General family, excels with special underwriting challenges including high cholesterol applicants.

Banner works best with term policies, in our experience, but the company has nice universal policy options, too. If you live in New York State, try Banner’s sister company, William Penn Life.

Pacific Life

Shoppers who want a more elaborate policy such as indexed universal should consider Pacific Life, especially when cholesterol is a concern.

Once again we’ve experienced better-than-average results with Pacific Life’s underwriting process.

Lincoln Financial

Lincoln Financial also excels with complex permanent policies such as variable and universal coverage.

We’ve noticed Lincoln’s underwriting allows for more nuances with senior-age shoppers who have higher cholesterol ratios.

SBLI

Numbers don’t lie, but they do sometimes contradict each other. For example, you could have a higher total cholesterol number which raises red flags but have an OK HDL to LDL ratio.

When this happens, we’ve noticed SBLI does a great job looking at the bigger picture to see how your health actually shapes up before making a final decision.

SBLI excels with term life insurance.

Mutual of Omaha

This highly rated provider is open to conversations about your overall health picture. Once again, you’ll get better results when you work with an agent who has your best interest in mind.

Mutual of Omaha has a wide variety of policy options — term, whole, universal, and no-exam.

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Life Insurance and Cholesterol

Life insurance underwriters, though very nice people, aren’t concerned about your health until it affects their company’s bottom line. If they approve your application and you die of a heart attack next year, the company has lost a lot of money.

So they pay close attention to your cholesterol and other health factors. They set premiums based partly on your health. Your body-mass index, your blood pressure, your heart rate — these numbers will impact your premiums.

With cholesterol, it’s not always a simple numbers game. Different types of cholesterol have different effects on your application. And the overall context of your health — whether or not you have other complicating factors — will make a difference, too.

If your cholesterol reading comes back higher than you expected, you could still get classified as Preferred or Standard Plus, meaning you wouldn’t pay the highest premiums.

RELATED: Check Sample Life Insurance Rates by Age (No Personal Info Required)

Two Different Kinds of Cholesterol

In your body, cholesterol exists in two forms:

  • LDL: This is the bad kind of cholesterol because it tends to line your arteries and prevent blood flow and cause blood clots. Too much LDL is a big deal for your health.
  • HDL: This good cholesterol has a job to do — clearing your vital organs of excess bad cholesterol. Not enough HDL makes your LDL number grow even worse.

Your insurance company will be interested in both your readings, HDL and LDL, but the most useful number will be your HDL to Cholesterol ratio.

The Mayo Clinic calculates this ratio by dividing your total cholesterol number (HDL + LDL) by only your HDL. For someone with a total cholesterol of 200 and an HDL of 50, the ratio would be 4.

The American Heart Association suggests keeping your ratio below 5 with a 3.5 being an optimal reading.

What do these numbers mean for life insurance? Nothing at all if your numbers look good. An applicant with the following cholesterol readings would be an ideal candidate for the best life insurance rates:

  • Total Cholesterol: 200 or lower
  • HDL: 40 or above
  • LDL: 100 or lower
  • Ratio:5

Too much deviation from this standard — or one number that’s way off the mark — will get underwriters’ attention which means you’ll have a more complicated journey to getting covered.

Just to be clear: Other underwriting factors such as smoking, obesity, or a chronic medical condition will affect rates even if your cholesterol looks great.

Cholesterol / HDL Ratio and Life Insurance Classifications

The following table shows an average insurer’s tolerance for cholesterol ratios.

Cholesterol Ratio Total Cholesterol mg/dl Typical Classification
Below 5 250 Preferred or Preferred Plus
5.1 to 6.5 300 Preferred
6.6 to 7.5 300 Standard Plus
7.6 to 8 300 Standard

Even higher ratios or higher total cholesterol numbers will likely place you in a table rating which often leads to unaffordable premiums for many shoppers.

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Cholesterol and Life Insurance Premiums

We can all agree not-so-great cholesterol readings could knock your application for life insurance off course. But how much your cholesterol will affect your premiums depends on some other variables.

  • Your Overall Health: If cholesterol is your only complicating factor, you can still find quality and affordable coverage from a variety of carriers.
  • Your Treatment Plan: When you’ve proven you can control your diagnosis with medicine and lifestyle changes, you could still find quality and affordable policies.
  • Your Commitment: Showing a commitment to better health through diet and exercise carries weight with a lot of insurance companies even if you have higher-than-ideal cholesterol readings.
  • Your Other Vitals: If you have high cholesterol and a body-mass index above 30, which signifies obesity, your coverage options will be more limited. Add in high blood pressure and you’ve limited options even more.
  • Your Insurance Company: All insurance companies view health differently, including cholesterol. You can count on some standards such as higher rates for people with higher cholesterol. But how much higher depends, in part, on the unique characteristics of each insurer.

Ways to Lower Premiums with High Cholesterol

Surprises are great in many areas of life. With life insurance, it’s better to know what’s coming. This is especially true with high risk insurance.

When you know your cholesterol is higher than it should be, you can take steps to improve your insurability before applying for coverage. You can:

Manage Your Condition

Life insurance companies notice when you get a high-risk health condition under control and keep it that way.

If your ratio has been slowly trending down thanks to your lifestyle choices or compliance with prescription medications, congratulations. Not only are you healthier, but you’re a much better candidate for affordable life insurance.

Someone who learns about his or her high cholesterol during the life insurance medical exam is much more likely to get denied.

  • Action you can take: Get your own physical, assess your health problems, and start working on them before applying for coverage.

Lower Your Risk in Other Ways

Any kind of health risk can increase your premiums or jeopardize your eligibility for quality coverage. If you have higher cholesterol readings, try to improve your health in other ways to simplify your risk factors.

  • Lose Weight: Even a few decimal points off your BMI can help. This can help lower your blood pressure, too, which is another factor that could drive up premiums.
  • Quit Smoking: Tobacco inflates premiums more than most other factors. Qualifying for non-tobacco rates can save dramatically. Most companies require at least a year’s wait after you quit smoking before they’ll consider you for non-tobacco rates.
  • Drive Better: If you speed, slow down. Drive more defensively, too. Insurers check DMV records to assess your risk tolerance.

Your age and family health history — along with the dangers inherent in your job and hobbies — will also impact premiums.

  • Action you can take: Work on your overall health and habits.

Apply for Coverage Strategically

People with simple life insurance profiles can shop for life insurance by comparing quotes and going with the lowest rate.

When you have high cholesterol you don’t have this kind of freedom. You’ll need to select a company most likely to see your application in a positive way.

  • Action you can take: Know that your search for insurance will take a little extra work.

Policy Types Impact Cost

The kind of insurance you buy will impact your premium levels:

  • Term vs. Permanent: Term life insurance is temporary and almost always less expensive. Value shoppers should choose term life.
  • Coverage Amount: The size of your policy — both its coverage amount and the length of your term — directly impact premiums. Get just enough coverage and not too much if you’d like to optimize your spending.
  • Extra Features: Policy riders make your coverage more flexible, but they also add cost. Don’t buy into a rider unless you have a strong suspicion you’ll be able to use it.
  • No-Exam Coverage: Skipping the medical exam saves time but this coverage costs more, especially when you’re young and relatively healthy.

Any life insurance shopper should buy a right-size policy. When you have high cholesterol you have even less room for error with these factors.

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What Happens If You Get Denied?

Getting denied for coverage means just that: It means you didn’t get the coverage you needed to protect your family. Don’t interpret this negative result as a defeat or an indicator of your future attempts.

One denial doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying to find the right policy. However, you shouldn’t simply repeat your first attempt. Take some time to find the best provider for you before applying again.

Use a more strategic approach by improving your status as an applicant and selecting a provider that will work with you.

Start with the carriers on our list, above. Ask an independent agent for help or ask us questions in the comment section below.