Jeff is a well-known speaker and expert in life insurance and financial planning. He has been featured and quoted in Nerdwallet, Bloomberg, Forbes, U.S. News & Money, USA Today, and other leading finance websites. He is a licensed life insurance agent and has helped over 3000 people secure life insurance. He is licensed in all 50 states & DC. Jeff has spoken at top insurance conferen...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent Benji Carr

UPDATED: Oct 9, 2020

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Chances are, you’ve been reading our series on heart disease wondering when we were going to address heart attacks, which occur in approximately 1.5 million Americans each year and account for the vast majority of heart-related deaths in the United States.

A history of heart attacks on your life insurance application used to be a huge red flag to insurers, resulting in sky-high premiums or automatics declines. Now that we know more about heart attacks and their causes, this is no longer the case.

Because heart attacks are so common, the key to successful underwriting is all in the follow-up.

Below, you’ll find some information on the causes and symptoms of a heart attack, as well as what your agent and insurer will look for when underwriting you for life insurance coverage.

Causes of Heart Attacks and How it Changes Life Insurance

Heart attacks, also known as myocardial infarctions (MI), occur when the blood supply to one or more parts of the heart are blocked. This blockage cuts off oxygen and causes death to part of the heart muscle.

Heart attacks can range in severity, depending on how much of the heart muscle has been irreversibly damaged.

Some MIs affect a small portion of the heart; so small, in fact, that it is possible for individuals to have a heart attack without even knowing it. These attacks are referred to as silent myocardial infarctions and are often mistaken for indigestion.

You may not be diagnosed until abnormalities are discovered in an EKG reading. Further tests, including stress tests, will most likely be needed to assess just how much of the heart muscle was damaged.

Stronger heart attacks often have symptoms. These can include: severe chest pain, significant changes in electrocardiogram readings, cold sweats, lightheadedness, pain in the upper body or arms or nausea.

These can occur when a clot breaks off from another part of the body and travels to a part of the coronary artery, blocking the flow of oxygenated blood.

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The Underwriting Process for Heart Attacks

Underwriting heart attacks is a complex process, and insurers will look at a variety of factors. The important thing to keep in mind when shopping for a life insurance policy with a history of heart attacks is to be patient; it may take time for underwriters to assess your risk, and you may have to endure a waiting period before you are considered for coverage.

As mentioned previously, the key to successfully underwriting a heart attack and getting the best coverage possible at the best ratings is an excellent follow up as indicated in APS.

APS stands for antiphospholipid syndrome, which is an immune system that affects the blood. Sometimes referred to as Hughes’ syndrome or “sticky blood” syndrome, APS screens for blood clots.

The presence of arterial blood clots or blood clots in the arteries can lead to strokes, hypertension and heart attacks.

Managing APS and reporting APS is very important in the underwriting process, as it monitors, prevents and delays further complications. With heart attacks, especially, the more specific you can be in your medical reports, the better off you will be when it comes time to assess your risk.

Here’s what underwriters want to see:

  • Regular medical follow-ups
  • Cessation of smoking or tobacco use
  • Monitoring and controlling blood pressure
  • Monitoring and controlling cholesterol levels
  • Good dietary habits
  • The use of preventative dietary supplements and medications, as prescribed by your physician or cardiologist
  • The incorporation of regular cardiovascular exercise

Additional cardiovascular testing might be requested by your insurance company. These frequently include stress tests. While these tests are voluntary, we always recommend our clients undergo the examinations.

This is because any changes – even the most minor of changes – can lead to significant decreases or increases in your life insurance premiums.

If you choose not to undergo these examinations, it is imperative that you provide your agent with the most up-to-date medical records you can find, and that you continuously provide him or her with updates.

In addition to the above, your insurance company will look at: your weight, your age, the date of your diagnosis, your family’s history of heart disease, your history with high cholesterol and blood pressure, if you have diabetes and a list of any medications you are taking or have taken in the recent past.

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Let Us Help You Get Life Insurance After A Heart Attack

If you have a history of heart attacks, we encourage you to give us a call today.

Because the underwriting process for heart attacks is so complex, it helps to speak to a knowledgeable agent who can help you navigate the process. There are a few upsides to talking to an agent before shopping for insurance.

  1. Your agent can give you a range of what to reasonably expect for your premium by preliminarily assessing your risk and comparing your situation to that of previous cases.
  2. Your agent will look at your medical records, walking you through what will weigh positively in your risk assessment and what markers will flag you as a high risk.
  3. An agent will then be able to take this information and write you a strong cover letter. Sometimes, the key to finding affordable life insurance lies in how you present an individual’s unique case. Agents will take the time to get to know you, and will help underwriters see past your heart attack.
  4. Additionally, a knowledgeable agent will help you find the right size and type of policy to suit your needs and can narrow your carrier choices to the ones who have a solid history of insuring individuals with a history of heart attacks.

Having an expert to guide you through the process of shopping for life insurance with a history of heart attacks can save you money, time and stress. Give us a call today!