It’s called the “silent killer” for a reason, and high blood pressure is a brutally dangerous condition. One in three adults in the U.S. has it, many with no symptoms, no red flags and, unless they’ve seen a doctor lately, no idea their numbers are so high that they’re at imminent risk of heart attack or stroke.
“High blood pressure is a precursor or indicator of other health issues going on,” said Ryan Pinney, brokerage director with Pinney Insurance Center in Roseville, Calif.
He said that’s why underwriters and insurance companies take into consideration an applicant’s systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) readings much like they do their height and weight when determining how they’ll be rated for life insurance. A blood pressure of 130/85 is normal and would usually result in a preferred or preferred plus rating, the best and least expensive, while 150/90 would bring you down to standard, or even substandard rating, depending on whether it is being effectively treated with medications.
How high is too high? An applicant whose blood pressure soars to 180/110 and left untreated could be declined depending on their age and if they have heart disease, diabetes or other related medical conditions. , said Anna Hart, MS, SRN, principal and consulting underwriter with ARH Consulting in Eastland, Texas.
Anna Hart, MS, SRN, a principal and consulting underwriter with ARH Consulting in Eastland, Texas, says age is also a factor.
“The higher the reading at a younger age, the worse the rating,” Hart said. “A 25-year-old male is not expected to have high blood pressure.”
Ratings get even worse if you add in obesity, smoking and drinking alcohol, she added.
The good news is you can come back to the same insurer in six months to a year and get a better rating, even preferred plus is possible — if you show a pattern of control through proper medication, Hart said.
Pinney says it is normal for a person’s blood pressure to vary 20 to 30 points during the day, depending on the time and circumstances. To keep your blood pressure low for an exam, he recommends having it done in the morning when you tend to weigh less and have lower blood pressure with no stress of sitting in traffic. “Don’t have any caffeine, alcohol or any stimulants or depressants including aspirin and ibuprofen as they can mess up your results, too.”
High Blood Pressure: Fact or Fiction?
1. Only nervous people get high blood pressure. False. A particularly stressful situation will cause a momentary peak in high blood pressure, but there is no proof that stress leads to ongoing high blood pressure, according to Mayo Clinic.
2. Like mom or dad, like their kids. False. There is not one particular gene that causes high blood pressure, but family history does play one of the several factors used in determining if you are at risk, said Dr. Jacki Goldstein, vice president and chief medical officer with MetLife’s insurance products.
3. Eating lima beans lowers your blood pressure. Goldstein said that while a good diet can help, increased potassium intake does not have that great an effect. What works better, she says, is to keep sodium intake down.
4. All factors that cause high blood pressure can be controlled. False. Goldstein said while diet and medications can control high blood pressure, family history and aging are two factors that are out of anyone’s control.
5. Eating frozen diet foods will help lower your blood pressure. Not necessarily. Goldstein says while being overweight is a contributing factor, so is salt, and some frozen prepared foods are high in salt. Be sure to read the label to make sure the product is not high in sodium, she says.
To learn more about your risk for high blood pressure, check out our article.