It seems like most people don’t like exams – either taking one or having one done to them.
But there’s no need to panic over your life insurance medical exam (yes, you’re probably going to have one). I’ve got some steps you can take before the “big day” to help prevent readings which may skew your test results or create unnecessary confusion.
One important thing to keep in mind is that the exam’s purpose isn’t to pass or fail you based on your health. Your insurer just needs to understand the big picture so they can assign an accurate rating. Oftentimes, the news can be better than expected, and generally good health is rewarded with a lower rate. Alternatively, the exam might uncover something that needs attention, like high cholesterol. That might be something good to know so you can make necessary lifestyle changes.
Think of your exam as a big-picture view. Your insurer will measure several key aspects of your health. These areas help determine your life insurance class, which is simply a group of people with similar overall health characteristics.
Your insurer will most likely look at:
- Height and weight
- Pulse/blood pressure tests
- Blood test
- Urine test
Tests can indicate glucose levels, blood pressure levels, and the presence of nicotine or other substances. Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measurement of overall fitness in regard to weight – may also be measured as part of your life insurance exam.
The most obvious cause that could affect your results is medications you’ve taken recently. These will probably show up in your blood tests. Bring a list of any prescription medications you’re taking so your insurer can match those to the blood analysis.
Over the counter meds can interfere with test results and create inaccurate readings too, so it might be best to avoid them for 24 hours prior to your medical exam if possible. Caffeine can cause spikes in blood pressure. Limit your caffeine intake or avoid it altogether, if possible, for no less than 12 hours prior to your exam. Smoking can elevate blood pressure as well.
Alcohol has a similar temporary effect on blood pressure. However, if you’re a regular or heavy drinker and you stop cold-turkey a day or two before your exam, you might be unpleasantly surprised to find that your blood pressure readings are still high! Slowly lower alcohol comsumption over the course of 1-2 weeks prior to your exam for the most favorable reading.
Some types of exercise can (predictably) spike blood pressure readings temporarily. As soon as you finish exercising, your blood pressure begins to return to normal, but the amount of time it takes is slightly different for everyone; the healthier you are, the faster it will return to normal. To be on the safe side, avoid working out right before your medical exam.
Some types of foods can create false readings or temporarily raise cholesterol levels. It’s best to avoid eating for 9-12 hours prior to your exam, giving your body time to clear temporary effects. Scheduling your exam for the morning makes this easier.
Stress can affect blood pressure readings. (Surprise, surprise.) Try to schedule your life insurance medical exam for a time when you’ll be less stressed. After work might not be the best time; after a good night’s rest would be better.
If you put these steps into practice before your medical exam, you have the potential to shield yourself from unattractive, false readings about your personal health – which has the potential to shield you from higher premiums! So don’t panic; just prepare.
Mayo Clinic: “Caffeine: How does it affect blood pressure?” 10.19.17
Caffeine Informer: “Caffeine Metabolism.” 11.9.2017
American Heart Association: “Smoking, High Blood Pressure and Your Health.” 1.10.2018
BACtrack: “Short-term Negative Effects of Alcohol Consumption.” 2018
Mayo Clinic: “Alcohol: Does it affect blood pressure?” 10.3.2015
Livestrong: “Does Exercise Raise Blood Pressure?” 8.14.2017
healthline: “How Does Exercise Affect Blood Pressure?.” 5.3.2018
Livestrong: “What Not to Eat Before Cholesterol Check.” 8.14.2017
American Heart Association: “Managing Stress to Control High Blood Pressure.” 1.29.2018