Signing up for life insurance is an involved process. You make the decision to purchase a policy, calculate how much coverage you need, shop around for prices, fill out a lengthy application, and finally get approved. But there’s one more step: the medical exam.
This can be a source of anxiety for many people. However, there are a few steps that you can take to ensure the best possible outcome from your life insurance exam. Let’s talk about the top eight ways to improve your exam results, and why they help.
Why It’s Required
A medical exam is often required when you apply for term or whole life insurance coverage. This series of tests, also called the paramedical exam, allows your potential insurance company to get a better idea of your health, confirm the answers you gave on your application, and even detect underlying conditions of which you might not be aware.
This exam includes taking your height and weight, to gauge your BMI and obesity risk. They will also take your blood pressure, get a urine sample, and draw blood to test for things like high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and even illicit drug use.
All of this helps the company determine whether or not you qualify for coverage, and how high your premiums should be. If you want to learn more about the things your insurer is looking for when they conduct a medical exam, check out our other article here.
How to Prepare
If you have a paramedical exam on the horizon, there are some things you can do to prepare. No, you won’t be able to erase a lifetime of couch potato-ing or a McDonald’s-based diet in a few short weeks. You can, however, take a few key steps in the days leading up to your exam, to ensure the most accurate and positive results possible.
Fast (or Don’t Fast)
Different insurance companies have different procedures for fasting. Many of them require you to avoid eating in the 8-12 hour period before your exam. Others, however, expect you to eat like normal.
Be sure to note which one your life insurance company requires, so that you can take proper action. Even if you’re able to eat before your exam, you should still watch what you eat in the day or two prior. Don’t load up on salty or sugary snacks, which could impact your blood pressure readings and dehydrate you (leading to a poor result on your urinalysis). You can also have your usual cup of coffee, but try to limit your caffeine intake the morning of (more on that in a bit).
Drink Enough Water
In the week leading up to your exam (and particularly the 24 hours before), be sure to drink plenty of water. This will help flush out any excess sodium that your body may be holding, which can lead to bloating and water retention.
This will also ensure proper hydration, which can impact your blood pressure as well as ensure your veins are fuller for an easier blood draw. Lastly, drinking adequate water can help your body flush out things like protein in your urine, which may simply be a result of strenuous exercise but may build up to higher concentrations when you’re dehydrated.
If you’re a smoker, you’re not going to be able to trick the test by simply abstaining for a few days. The sensitivity of these blood, urine, and saliva tests can detect nicotine or cotinine in your system if it’s been used in the past few weeks (or even month).
You can, however, improve your overall exam results by at least avoiding nicotine for the morning of the exam. Nicotine can acutely elevate your heart rate, which could skew the findings regarding your heart health and blood pressure.
While you’re not going to be able to pass as a non-smoker if you use nicotine products, avoiding cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, cigars, and even nicotine gum the day of your exam may help in other areas.
No, you don’t have to skip your morning cup of joe on the day that you take your life insurance exam. You should try to limit your intake to one cup if you can, though, and certainly abstain from other caffeine sources – like energy drinks – until the exam has been completed.
You should make an effort to avoid these stimulants at least an hour before your paramedical exam. This includes holding off on coffee, energy drinks and shots, and even green teas. Consuming caffeine can acutely elevate your heart rate and blood pressure, so it’s better to wait if you can.
Avoid Strenuous Exercise
While a brisk walk isn’t going to hurt anything, starting your marathon training the day before a paramedical exam is probably a bad idea.
Strenuous exercise can cause your body to produce and excrete protein in your urine. While this isn’t an issue on a regular basis, it is a concern as far as your life insurance medical exam is concerned.
Since protein in the urine can also be an indicator of kidney disease, bladder disorders, and even heart failure, you want to avoid causing it for any reason. For the 24-48 hours before your exam, try to avoid an overly-exertive workout.
Watch Your Diet
The week leading up to your exam is a good time to start watching what you eat. You shouldn’t be crash dieting at this time, but avoiding the drive-thru line is a good idea.
Most fast foods are full of sodium, sugars, and saturated fats. These will not only cause you to retain water (and impact your blood pressure), but can also skew your cholesterol readings.
If you can, clean up your diet as far out from your exam as possible. This will help lower your blood pressure and sugar readings, and give you better results overall.
The occasional use of alcohol isn’t frowned upon by insurance companies in quite the same way as tobacco. However, it’s wise to avoid drinking for 24-48 hours before your exam, if you can.
Detectable alcohol in your system doesn’t exactly look good, but more than that, it can impact your other readings. For instance, alcohol can raise your blood pressure, which is a significant aspect of your paramedical exam. If you can avoid imbibing for a day or two, you’ll be better off in the end.
Catch Some Zzzs
If you really want to lower your stress levels – and, in turn, your blood pressure readings – you should try to get good sleep before your exam. While it’s ideal to sleep well for the few nights leading up to your appointment, you should at least aim for 7-8 hours of sleep the night before.
In addition to sleep, you should also try to rest your mind. Feeling stressed and not getting adequate sleep can both contribute to higher levels of stress hormones in the body. These hormones can, in turn, elevate your blood pressure levels. Try to avoid both if you can!
Acing Your Exam
Your paramedical exam is an important part of the life insurance coverage process. This allows your potential insurer to know exactly how much of a risk you pose, and whether or not you are healthy enough to be approved for coverage.
While you can’t undo the last few years of neglecting the gym, being overstressed at work, or eating cereal for dinner, there are some steps you can take to ensure the best possible results. These eight tips will allow you to do just that, priming your body for the battery of tests required.
Thinking about getting a life insurance policy, but don’t know where to start? Give us a call! Our licensed life insurance representatives are available to walk you through the process and answer any concerns you may have.