High blood pressure is a relatively common medical issue that affects approximately 32% of American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, recently the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology revised the current blood pressure guidelines. According to the new guidelines, an individual is considered to be hypertensive if their average blood pressure is 130/80 mmHg rather than the previous standard of 140/90 mmHg. This change raises the amount of U.S. adults affected to 46% which is likely to affect life insurance rates for applicants going forward.
The National Institute of Health believes that the change in the hypertension guidelines will lead to improved health and lower the risks of stroke and heart disease.
Life Insurance Company Blood Pressure Guidelines
The blood pressure guidelines, although comparably similar, do vary by life insurance company. Many providers allow for higher blood pressure readings for older individuals, like around 60 or so.
The last time the blood pressure guidelines were addressed by the AHA was in 2003. Life insurance companies do not revise these guidelines too often. An examination of 10 comparable life insurance providers provides insight into the fact that these guidelines are the same as they were five years ago, especially for the Preferred Plus and Preferred rating classes.
With the new guidelines implemented, more U.S. adults will qualify for Preferred Plus and Preferred. However, given the significant change to the new guideline provided by the AHA, it’s reasonable to believe that life insurance companies will tighten their own guidelines regarding hypertension.
What about the Medications I’m Taking?
While the new guidelines provided by the AHA may have people wondering if they will need to begin blood pressure medication, the reality is that it is too early to tell. The fact of the matter is that consistently elevated blood pressure is responsible for a substantial number or preventable heart and stroke disease-related deaths. Most are not aware that they have the condition because they may not notice any symptoms.
According to the authors of the newest guidelines, as described by the AHA news brief, only a small percentage more of U.S. adults will require hypertension medication. If you are already prescribed hypertension medication, or it is now recommended, do not spend too much time worrying about your life insurance rates.
Most life insurance providers allow for the use of hypertension medication for their Preferred Plus and Preferred rating class members. You may still qualify for the lowest rates available if your blood pressure is optimally controlled with medication.
Natural Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure
There are multiple ways that you can control or lower your blood pressure without the use of medications. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following lifestyle changes:
- Eat a well-balanced, low sodium (salt) diet
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Enjoy regular physical activity
- Manage and reduce stress
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
In addition to the above, further changes include increasing your potassium intake by adding bananas, salmon, and avocados. Focus on cardiovascular exercise in order to improve heart health. Reducing weight by 5% while maintaining daily exercise and a healthy diet will decrease your blood pressure by nearly 5-11points (mmHg) on average. It is recommended that men consume no more than two alcoholic beverages a day and that women consume only one a day.
When applying for term life insurance, most providers will require an in-home medical examination. Part of this exam includes recording the results for your blood pressure taken three different times. The average of these three readings is then applied to their company’s guidelines. The following recommendations will assist you in obtaining your lowest possible blood pressure measurements:
- Do not perform any strenuous activity for at least 24 hours before the exam
- Abstain from alcohol consumption for at least 24 hours before the exam
- Limit caffeine intake 24 hours prior to the exam, with absolutely NO caffeine for at least 8 hours before the exam.
- Remain calm during the exam by focusing on slowing your breaths
If you remain nervous about the exam, even after following the recommendations, request that your blood pressure is taken at the end of the exam when you are most likely to be relaxed. Even if your blood pressure readings return higher than normal, your agent, physician, and life insurance provider can work together to potentially improve your class rating.