Preparing for a Life Insurance Medical Exam

If you’re in the market for a life insurance policy, you may be asked to take a medical exam. There’s no reason to stress over this portion of the application process. It’s meant to help a life insurer get a holistic picture of your health to provide you with the best pricing possible.


Just like the countless guides available for preparing for your first child, training for a marathon and DIY art projects, we’re providing you with a guide to your medical exam. Think of this as “what to expect when you’re expecting”… to take a medical exam.

What to Expect During the Exam

The exam takes about 30 minutes, and the paramed can meet you at home, your place of business, or the exam office. Pro tip: schedule the exam where you’ll be most comfortable giving a blood and urine sample.

You can expect the paramed to:

  • Review your family’s medical history
  • Measure your blood pressure, height and weight
  • Collect blood and urine samples
  • Verify the health and lifestyle claims you make on your application

Many people wonder if paramedics are employees of the insurance company – they are not. Parameds are certified medical professionals who work for a third-party company the insurer utilizes to provide test results.

What They’re Testing For

The purpose of the medical exam is to help the insurer determine your appropriate rate class. Each life insurance company has multiple rate classes that determine the risk you represent to the company and, thus, your premium amount. You will pay the least for the highest rate class.

If detected in your medical exam, the following are a few examples of things that can negatively impact your health rating (which can increase your policy’s premium):

  • High blood pressure
  • High BMI
  • High cholesterol or glucose levels
  • Indications of nicotine, tobacco or drug use

You may be wondering, “Are there certain ranges or breaking points for the best classes?” Some companies use standard thresholds for underwriting classes, but the final decision is based on a combination of factors (outside of just your medical exam) which makes it difficult to provide hard “rules.” If your measurements are within normal ranges for a broad range of tests, however, you may be able to qualify for many companies’ best underwriting classes. The following are some average stats that could help your case:

  • Blood pressure under 130/80
  • Cholesterol of  220 with a HDL ratio of 4.5 or less
  • A “normal” BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. Calculate your BMI here
  • No detection of nicotine, tobacco or drug use
  • No detection of diabetes, cancer or any other major illnesses

Ace Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

While you (unfortunately) can’t study for this exam, you can do a few things to help ensure you are your best self the day of the exam.

In the weeks leading up to the exam:

  • Eat foods that improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels like leafy greens and oatmeal. Try to stick with lean meats only.
  • Don’t forget your good cholesterol levels. Foods like avocados, nuts and grapefruit help raise your HDL level, which is just as important as having low cholesterol.
  • Avoid processed foods that are high in sodium and sugar. They can elevate your blood pressure and sugar levels.

24 hours before your medical exam:

  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine.
  • Don’t exercise because it can elevate your blood pressure.
  • Fast (no food) eight hours before the exam to keep from elevating your blood pressure and sugar levels. With that in mind, fasting is easier if you can make your appointment first thing in the morning.

Exam day:

  • Don’t consume any caffeine prior to the exam, but be sure to drink water to hydrate.
  • Bring a photo ID, and be ready to provide names and dosages of any medications you take.
  • Have the name, address and contact information for your primary care physician.
  • Dress in lightweight clothing and stand tall. Hey – maybe it’s not a huge difference, but an extra inch can give you an additional 5 pounds to work with!
  • And remember, don’t take the exam if you’re not feeling well and avoid using cold and flu medication.

A medical exam is an important step in acquiring a quality term life insurance policy and has a significant impact on the premium amount. Remember, it will impact your premium for the life of the policy. We can’t guarantee these steps will result in a less expensive policy or a different rate class. However, they should leave you feeling prepared and confident in your resulting health rating.

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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