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How to prepare for a life insurance medical exam


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You probably remember the feeling of sweating through a final exam in school that would impact your grade for an important class. Now imagine taking a test that can help determine whether or not you qualify for life insurance, and how much it will cost.

Life insurance rates can be partially determined by the results of a medical exam. If certain health risks are identified during your exam, your life insurance premiums may be higher-than-average, or the insurance company may even deny you coverage altogether.

This doesn’t have to be a scary process. Follow the tips below to learn how you might want to prepare for a life insurance medical exam.

About life insurance medical exams

Before getting into how to prepare for a life insurance medical exam, let’s first take a look at the test itself. In most situations, the insurance company uses a medical underwriting process to help gauge their risk of insuring you. The process typically begins with a written health questionnaire where you are asked about your own medical history, as well as that of your family. They inquire about your family to understand if there are any diseases that may be common such as heart disease, cancer, etc. The questionnaire may also ask for your height and weight, your history of tobacco use, whether you have been diagnosed with any medical conditions, and if you currently take any prescription medications.

The questionnaire may also cover areas relating to your lifestyle. For instance, whether you partake in any dangerous activities such as skydiving or rock climbing. You might even be asked about past DUI’s, speeding tickets, felonies and drug or alcohol abuse. This is another part of the insurance company doing their due diligence to assess the chance that they may pay out death benefits on your policy. 

It’s in your best interest to be honest when completing the questionnaire, even if you believe your answers may increase your policy cost. Your answers to the health questions will likely be double checked by the physical exam (if one is required), and the insurance company may access your criminal and driving records to confirm your answers for those sections of the test. If it’s discovered that you were dishonest in your answers, the insurance company may deny you coverage. 

Additionally, many life insurance policies include a contestability period, which is typically 1-2 years, beginning as soon as the policy takes effect. If you were to die during this time, the insurance company may conduct a thorough investigation of your lifestyle and medical history to see if there were any discrepancies in your answers on the health questionnaire. If so, the insurance company may reserve the right to reduce or deny the claim.

Life insurance underwriting and the medical exam

Some life insurance companies may send a nurse or medical professional to your home to perform the underwriting medical exam. Here’s what you can likely expect: 

  • A measurement of your height and weight
  • A measurement of your blood pressure and heart rate
  • A blood and urine sample to be taken to test for indications of conditions such as heart or kidney disease, diabetes and STD’s or AIDS

If a medical exam is required as part of your life insurance application, here are some tips that may help you prepare:

  • Eat properly in the days leading up to the exam
    Your diet can have a big impact on your blood pressure and cholesterol. Eating a lot of leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale and salad in the days leading up to the test can potentially drop your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

    Not all cholesterol is bad, however, and there are certain foods that can elevate your level of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), also sometimes called “good cholesterol.” The lab will likely test for both good and bad cholesterol, so while eating leafy greens can help lower the bad cholesterol, a diet of salmon, avocados, nuts, olive oil, peanut butter and oats can help raise the good type of cholesterol.

    You may want to stay away from fast food and other processed foods. The high salt and sugar levels can elevate your blood pressure and sugar levels.

  • Don’t eat or drink anything but water eight hours before the exam
    Many doctors, prefer that you fast at least eight hours before your exam to get a more accurate assessment of your health. Fasting reduces the risk of a false reading due to what you ate or drank just prior to your testing. For example, a piece of fruit may increase your sugar level, or coffee may increase your heart rate. You may want to consider scheduling your exam in the morning and have your breakfast afterwards.

  • Drink a healthy amount of water
    Start drinking a healthy amount of water at least 24 hours before the exam. Not only can this help flush toxins out of your system, but it can also make your blood veins fuller and easier to find, which can be helpful if a nurse is required to draw a blood sample.

  • Don’t drink alcohol or use tobacco products
    Alcohol can be high in sugar, therefore you may want to consider not drinking any 24 hours prior to your exam. Also, you may want to avoid using any tobacco products immediately before the exam, as they may cause a temporary spike in your heart rate.

  • Do not exercise for 24 hours
    Exercise can cause a temporary increase in your blood pressure and can cause elevated levels of protein in your urine, which is an indicator of possible kidney disease.

  • Dress lightly
    The difference between one weight class and another, or the potential difference between being classified as obese or not, can be just one pound. A sweater or a pair of jeans can weigh up to a pound each, which could negatively affect your recorded weight.

  • Request to have your blood drawn before measuring your heart rate or blood pressure
    If you know the needle is coming soon, your heart rate and blood pressure may elevate as a result of fear or anxiety. Ask the nurse if they can take your blood sample first.

None of these tips should be considered medical advice, and you should always be truthful and honest during the life insurance underwriting process.

Guaranteed issue life insurance doesn’t require a medical exam

Guaranteed issue life insurance is a type of policy that requires no health questionnaire and no medical exam. All applicants of a given age will be approved for coverage, and they will all be approved under the same rate (Coverage is subject to receipt of payment and verification of identity as required by law and is effective upon receipt of policy.). Guaranteed issue life insurance can also be a good option for people who are uncomfortable with medical exams and who wish to obtain life insurance coverage without undergoing any underwriting.

AIG Life Insurers offers whole, term and guaranteed issue life insurance to help ensure applicants of all ages and health conditions can apply for the coverage they need.

Call 1-888-428-8870 to speak to an AIG-appointed life insurance agent and learn more about how you may benefit from guaranteed issue life insurance.

*Please visit for more information on variable life insurance.


Policies issued by American General Life Insurance Company (AGL) except in New York, where issued by The United States Life Insurance Company in the City of New York (US Life). Issuing companies AGL and US Life are responsible for financial obligations of insurance products and are members of American International Group, Inc. (AIG).

Products may not be available in all states and product features may vary by state. Guarantees are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. ©2018 AIG. All Rights Reserved.


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