Author Topic: Wanting to get term life... high cholesterol, blood pressure, and nutrition  (Read 4800 times)

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3307
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Hey all,

Since having our first kid, my wife keeps bugging me about getting life insurance. Seems term is the best way to go. But what concerns [or intimidates] me is the whole medical exam part and how my current readings will affect the pricing.

I just had my annual doctor's visit and they did a blood test. The results came back with high cholesterol (253 total, 181 LDL, 45 HDL) and my BP has been hovering in the 130-140/90 range. My cholesterol and BP have been high for kind of a long time (closer to the 200 total range) but I've always never been super-active nor have I been really serious about dieting (and maintaining it). My doctor is now really pushing statins which I really don't want to take. High cholesterol/BP runs especially on my dad's site (he has had an angioplasty years ago and around 5 yrs ago had triple-bypass, so it's no joke). I know they say if diet/exercise (lifestyle) changes don't make a difference, which sometimes they don't, then medication is a must. For the past few months, I'm starting to get back into a more consistent workout routine (I try to follow Youtube workout vids at least 2-3 times a week for a minimum of 30-40 minutes) and especially lately I've been trying to cut back on red meat, dairy, and sodium intake. I've gained probably 20lbs since getting married in 2010 and I'm at the high-end for BMI. I've also been trying to eat healthier (green smoothies, nuts, fruits and veggies, fish/chicken, and trying to watch it with the salt).

For someone who has never purchased term life outside of a company plan (e.g. one where a medical exam is required), is it recommended that I keep trying to get my levels down *prior* to applying for life insurance? Or is it recommended just to go for it regardless? If I go on statins, will the fact that I'm taking them make a significant difference with rates?

Another concern is the latest lab came back with higher above/normal RBC, Hemoglobin and Hematocrit. I've never seen this on previous labs so that's strange - the doc says it's probably a glitch and to do a lab re-test (which I'm sort of not happy about since it'll probably end up costing to have a second lab draw as I'm under an HSA/HDHP plan now). For you doctors out there, is there anything that would 'mistakenly' cause these levels to go up (e.g. if the nurse drawing blood missed a vein or didn't do something right when drawing?)

NoMoneyMoProblems

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 15
Hi, can't speak to the medical considerations specifically or how treatment vs. not will affect premiums. Would just recommend looking at USAA life insurance policies, if they are available to you (US military, retired, or family members). That's what we have and the process was very efficient and easy. Was the best combination of coverage and low cost we could find. When I went through all the paperwork and everything, they did ask about health conditions, etc. but everyone was very responsive and understanding of our particular nuances and circumstances. I've also had good luck with New York Life.

hope it helps,
Bryan

Bracken_Joy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8926
  • Location: Oregon
Friendly neighborhood nurse here! I can only answer the question about what could affect your RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrit levels. Although this is NOT medical advice, and nothing to do with anything specific to your situation- only a healthcare provider familiar with your history can speak to that =) I can tell you generalities though!

Hydration is a big factor in these- the measure is essentially saying "you had x number of cells in y volume of blood". If you're dehydrated, it'll be more cells for a given volume of blood. If you're over hydrated/your sodium levels have been doing odd thing, you can end up with a low number of cells for a given volume.

If your doc thinks it was likely a fluke but still wants you to re-check, I would follow through with the re-test. There are medical implications if you are actually out of range as your baseline state. So if doc says recheck, I would absolutely recommend a recheck- hope it's something minor like hydration changes, but check to be sure. =)

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/hematocrit_blood_test/page5_em.htm
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003646.htm
http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/high-hemoglobin-count/basics/causes/sym-20050862
http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/high-red-blood-cell-count/basics/definition/sym-20050858

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3307
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Thanks! I was just going to ask about which company(ies) is recommended for purchasing insurance. It just seems a like a beast to figure out the first time going through. How do you generally determine how much you need? I've seen the calculators but it still seems somewhat ambiguous as far as figuring out what your family actually needs... I've also heard of those riders that you can add onto your plan where the payout decreases further into the term (e.g. if I die within 10-20 years, the payout is $XXX versus if I die at 20-30 years the payout is $XX instead)

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3307
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Friendly neighborhood nurse here! I can only answer the question about what could affect your RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrit levels. Although this is NOT medical advice, and nothing to do with anything specific to your situation- only a healthcare provider familiar with your history can speak to that =) I can tell you generalities though!

Hydration is a big factor in these- the measure is essentially saying "you had x number of cells in y volume of blood". If you're dehydrated, it'll be more cells for a given volume of blood. If you're over hydrated/your sodium levels have been doing odd thing, you can end up with a low number of cells for a given volume.

If your doc thinks it was likely a fluke but still wants you to re-check, I would follow through with the re-test. There are medical implications if you are actually out of range as your baseline state. So if doc says recheck, I would absolutely recommend a recheck- hope it's something minor like hydration changes, but check to be sure. =)

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/hematocrit_blood_test/page5_em.htm
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003646.htm
http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/high-hemoglobin-count/basics/causes/sym-20050862
http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/high-red-blood-cell-count/basics/definition/sym-20050858


Thanks for the tip! The appointment/blood draw was in the morning (probably closer to 10am) and I recall that I did drink water prior to that. I also didn't eat or drink anything otherwise prior so it should have been coming off a fast. Not sure if that would make a difference. I'll probably get in touch with the doctor's office again to schedule another blood test. I'm assuming it's probably best to do this prior to scheduling a medical exam for the life insurance (just to have an idea of what's up).

Beriberi

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 137
I think this is a situation where the perfect can be the enemy of the good. I would get insurance now. Then I would make some lifestyle changes. If you have been successful, you can apply for new term insurance and cancel your old.  Waiting until the BP is right, the BMI is good, etc may mean that you put off getting insurance until you have a minor heart attack, or find out you have a blood disorder that puts you at risk of dying young, or something happens out of the blue that makes you high risk - and then you are uninsurable (at least with term).

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3307
  • Location: Orange County, CA
So I guess I'll proceed with checking for quotes at USAA and NY Life. Are there other good 'no-frills' companies that anyone recommends? I'm very much interested in doing the base term + riders for less payout as the years go on, but I'm not exactly familiar with how pricing/costs work for those and what month-to-month costs look like (e.g. would the cost of the insurance go down as the riders go into effect?)

Frankies Girl

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3222
  • Age: 82
  • Location: The laboratory
  • Ghouls Just Wanna Have Funds!
Probably a weird suggestion, but my husband had high cholesterol and triglycerides and the doc kept pushing drugs that messed him up really bad (dizzy spells, felt sick all the time), so we tried fish oil and his tests got a bit better, but then switched to krill oil (generic) and his later retests were normal range.

He's also lost about 75 pounds in the last year, and at his last checkup his levels were out of wack again, but from what I've read it's because lots of hormones and crud are stored in fat and are dumped back into your bloodstream to be filtered over time. So we're hopeful that the weight loss and continued use of krill oil will help him get back to normal levels.

mxt0133

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1552
  • Location: San Francisco
On the numbers side you really need to know how much insurance you need to get.  Don't forget about your wife either.  Do not underestimate what the financial impact it would be to your family if your spouse passes, even if they don't earn any income.  Think about what you would have to do to keep providing for your family.  Would you need day care, will you have time to cook and clean, ect.  If you don't know how much you need, start with what survivor benefits your spouse and child will get if you pass from Social Security.  You can check at SSA.gov.  From there calculate the difference how much you would need a month or year on your current expenses.  If you pass some of the family expenses might go down some might go up, take a best guess estimate and then come up with a number to at least get your family through until your children are old enough to either support themselves or through college.  As for the riders that pay lower amounts as you get older, don't forget about inflation.  A 500k payout today will be worth more than a 500k payout in 10years.  So if in 10years you only get 250k payout that might not meet your families needs at all.

Besides the numbers, when you say that "High cholesterol/BP runs especially [high] on my dad's side".  I hope you are not using that as an excuse to give yourself a pass as if nothing you do will make a difference.  My parents and sister have this attitude and it drives me BAT SHIT CRAZY!  Oh, diabetes runs in the family what are you going to do, while gulping down a can of soda every meal or snack.  Just because it runs in the family doesn't mean it has to continue with you or your children.  You just had a child so I don't think you need much motivation to stay healthy or to improve your health if you want to see them into adulthood and spoil some grandchildren. 

For activity you don't need to start running marathons.  As for videos that wouldn't work for me because there are too many things in the house that will interrupt me like, the internet, video games, ect.  Just start walking.  Take your kid on a morning or evening stroll.  Start small, if you can't do more than 1/2 an hour at a time break it up to two 20 minutes walks a day.  My neighbor lost 80lbs and the way he started was just walking, every day.  He started around the block, then around the park, then eventually started walking 2 hours at a time.  He's not even jogging, running, or doing weights, just walking.  We do have some hills in SF.

For nutrition watch 'Fat Sick and nearly Dead', 'Hungry for Change', 'Forks Over Knives' or any of the movies listed here:

http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Best-Healthy-Netflix-Documentaries-37757466#photo-37757500

The main reason diets fail is because people try to deprive themselves of food they want to eat.  The thing is willpower is limited and it is not a long term strategy.  You have to reprogram your brain to think that eating a burger from McDonalds or any other fast food is actually poisonous for you.  I mean you don't go around trying to deprive yourself of pesticide or rat poison, right?  Once you understand what food you should be eating more of, think of trying to eat more of those good foods instead of trying to eat less of the bad foods.  It's a significant mental shift.  For me I know that a cheese burger with fries and soda tastes fucking awesome, but I also know that it will give me high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  Again it's poisonous for my body even though my brain craves its.  Have I stopped eating it completely, no.  I still have some if my family really wants to have some or we just have no other convenient choice.  What I do eat more now are raw foods and foods made at home so that I can control the amount of salt, sugar, and portions that are served.


Hvillian

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 141
OP - my wife had a medical episode about 12 years ago that made getting term life for her particularly expensive, even though she is perfectly healthy and unaffected now (e.g. USAA wanted about 4 times the baseline premium once they did the medical underwriting).  I found that it was cheaper to just get the term life without the medical underwriting.  You should be able to find insurers willing to offer policies up to $200,000 or $250,000 without the full medical screening.  We found two insurers with competitive rates through our Credit Union and Alumni Association.  Search for "Group Term Life" or "Term Life without Underwriting."

And as others have said, you could also re-apply for cheaper policies once your health improves.  And please put in the time and effort to work on it - well worth it.


jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3307
  • Location: Orange County, CA
On the numbers side you really need to know how much insurance you need to get.  Don't forget about your wife either.  Do not underestimate what the financial impact it would be to your family if your spouse passes, even if they don't earn any income.  Think about what you would have to do to keep providing for your family.  Would you need day care, will you have time to cook and clean, ect.  If you don't know how much you need, start with what survivor benefits your spouse and child will get if you pass from Social Security.  You can check at SSA.gov.  From there calculate the difference how much you would need a month or year on your current expenses.  If you pass some of the family expenses might go down some might go up, take a best guess estimate and then come up with a number to at least get your family through until your children are old enough to either support themselves or through college.  As for the riders that pay lower amounts as you get older, don't forget about inflation.  A 500k payout today will be worth more than a 500k payout in 10years.  So if in 10years you only get 250k payout that might not meet your families needs at all.

Besides the numbers, when you say that "High cholesterol/BP runs especially [high] on my dad's side".  I hope you are not using that as an excuse to give yourself a pass as if nothing you do will make a difference.  My parents and sister have this attitude and it drives me BAT SHIT CRAZY!  Oh, diabetes runs in the family what are you going to do, while gulping down a can of soda every meal or snack.  Just because it runs in the family doesn't mean it has to continue with you or your children.  You just had a child so I don't think you need much motivation to stay healthy or to improve your health if you want to see them into adulthood and spoil some grandchildren. 

For activity you don't need to start running marathons.  As for videos that wouldn't work for me because there are too many things in the house that will interrupt me like, the internet, video games, ect.  Just start walking.  Take your kid on a morning or evening stroll.  Start small, if you can't do more than 1/2 an hour at a time break it up to two 20 minutes walks a day.  My neighbor lost 80lbs and the way he started was just walking, every day.  He started around the block, then around the park, then eventually started walking 2 hours at a time.  He's not even jogging, running, or doing weights, just walking.  We do have some hills in SF.

For nutrition watch 'Fat Sick and nearly Dead', 'Hungry for Change', 'Forks Over Knives' or any of the movies listed here:

http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Best-Healthy-Netflix-Documentaries-37757466#photo-37757500

The main reason diets fail is because people try to deprive themselves of food they want to eat.  The thing is willpower is limited and it is not a long term strategy.  You have to reprogram your brain to think that eating a burger from McDonalds or any other fast food is actually poisonous for you.  I mean you don't go around trying to deprive yourself of pesticide or rat poison, right?  Once you understand what food you should be eating more of, think of trying to eat more of those good foods instead of trying to eat less of the bad foods.  It's a significant mental shift.  For me I know that a cheese burger with fries and soda tastes fucking awesome, but I also know that it will give me high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  Again it's poisonous for my body even though my brain craves its.  Have I stopped eating it completely, no.  I still have some if my family really wants to have some or we just have no other convenient choice.  What I do eat more now are raw foods and foods made at home so that I can control the amount of salt, sugar, and portions that are served.

Thanks, we'll have to sit down and go through the exercise to determine what's needed. Guess we'll just have to make estimates based on current budget and monthly spending patterns.

I'm definitely not using "high cholesterol/BP runs in the family" as a pass to not do anything. That's why I've started getting into a more consistent exercise routine, as well as trying to tackle the diet and just eating better in general.

The videos are good and I like the ones I'm currently going through - distractions aren't an issue because I go into the garage with the laptop, set it on the chest freezer, and go straight through it (I've been leaving my car parked outside for months now in favor of having a workout space in the garage - it's also subconsciously getting me in the mindset of going to a one-car family haha). But yea, I should probably go on more walks - either during lunch or in the morning. I usually workout for about 30-40 minutes and after I get off work. A couple of old coworkers lost a ton of weight by walking and I recall being able to pretty effectively keep weight down by taking a brisk 30 min walk after lunch while I was working at my old place. For me, it's harder to get out of the house especially now that I'm working at home. This has pretty much confirmed how huge of a homebody I am (my wife is too actually, so that doesn't help). It's really something I need to work on...

I hear you on failing diets... the urge is simply too strong sometimes but when you frame it with the perspective that what you're putting in your body *directly* and *immediately* affects you, it changes things. And I think the more you avoid junk food, you start developing a strong distaste for them. One example of this is eating at Jack in the Box or Carl's Jr after not having eaten there in ages. Everything just tastes greasy and disgusting, and after a couple experiences like that, I'm much less inclined to go back let alone crave any of it (whereas before, especially in my college days, I'd more frequently eat that crap). I recently got a Blendtec, and discovered how simple it is to make nut butters with it, and green smoothies are starting to become another normal part of the diet. The toughest part is controlling the sodium - there's just way too much of it in a lot of stuff. 

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3307
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Ughh, so regarding the re-draw, I checked with insurance and they only cover *one* blood draw per year. My doctor wants me to go back for a re-draw to make sure those RBC/Hemoglobin/Hematocrit numbers were just a 'fluke' and it's gonna cost me around $42 or so... I was anticipating more but I guess blood panels aren't as costly in general. Well, guess I'll have to suck up the costs - I don't think this is something I would want to avoid doing.

little_brown_dog

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 912
My bp story Ė

Stressful job + long commute = bp 130s/80s despite being female, very healthy weight, young, modestly active, and vegetarian.
 
Cut work hours to PT = bp dropped to 105-110/low 70s and stayed that way. Everything stayed the same except maybe I was walking a little more since I had more free time, but I certainly was not going to the gym or working out. BP continued to stay below 120/80 even when 37 weeks pregnant!

Obviously you canít just quit your job, but my point here is that things like stress can be HUGE players when it comes to bp, even if you are otherwise very healthy. If you have a young baby, sleep deprivation may also be contributing to it. So really try to find ways to reduce the stress in your life wherever possible.  Thankfully, relaxing is much more fun than dieting or running! I know one older gentleman who swears by a long nightly walk after dinner, followed by herbal tea, some reading, and an early bedtime as the secret to good health.



jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3307
  • Location: Orange County, CA
My bp story Ė

Stressful job + long commute = bp 130s/80s despite being female, very healthy weight, young, modestly active, and vegetarian.
 
Cut work hours to PT = bp dropped to 105-110/low 70s and stayed that way. Everything stayed the same except maybe I was walking a little more since I had more free time, but I certainly was not going to the gym or working out. BP continued to stay below 120/80 even when 37 weeks pregnant!

Obviously you canít just quit your job, but my point here is that things like stress can be HUGE players when it comes to bp, even if you are otherwise very healthy. If you have a young baby, sleep deprivation may also be contributing to it. So really try to find ways to reduce the stress in your life wherever possible.  Thankfully, relaxing is much more fun than dieting or running! I know one older gentleman who swears by a long nightly walk after dinner, followed by herbal tea, some reading, and an early bedtime as the secret to good health.

I did change jobs at the beginning of the year and am working from home in conjunction. I would say it's pretty low-stress overall and I think the fact that I can step out and see/play with my wife and kid pretty much whenever I want is a huge factor. Sleep deprivation could definitely be a factor as I think it's been a while since I've slept through the night without being woken up by crying. I used to go down to the beach and fish pretty often but since having the kid, that hasn't been much of an option. I think I just need to get off my butt and go do it though, but would have to schedule it so that I'm not 'ditching' my wife either. In any case, I would say probably the larger factors here are that I need to really cut sodium out and eat better in general. And I think going on longer walks or perhaps making my exercise sessions longer would also help.

RelaxedGal

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 349
  • Age: 42
  • Location: 495 corridor, Massachusetts, USA
A good non-sales life insurance needs calculator is at Life Happens .org

As for quotes: you can try individual companies as listed above, or go through an aggregator like Select Quote or Life Quote.

I agree with everyone above: don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, get insurance sooner rather than later.  And make sure your wife does too.

Beriberi

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 137
Things that are proven to lower blood pressure:
-meditation
-exercise
-quitting smoking
-alcohol reduction, if you are a heavy drinker
-a wide range of pharmaceuticals

Things not proven (in the general population) to lower blood pressure:
-sleep
-salt reduction (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/its-time-to-end-the-war-on-salt/)

AlwaysLearningToSave

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 437
I think this is a situation where the perfect can be the enemy of the good. I would get insurance now. Then I would make some lifestyle changes. If you have been successful, you can apply for new term insurance and cancel your old.  Waiting until the BP is right, the BMI is good, etc may mean that you put off getting insurance until you have a minor heart attack, or find out you have a blood disorder that puts you at risk of dying young, or something happens out of the blue that makes you high risk - and then you are uninsurable (at least with term).

^^^^ Do this.  Especially considering your family history, it seems imprudent to wait on the hope your numbers will improve.  Buy a policy then use the higher-than-you-want-them-to-be premium payments act as additional motivation to make lifestyle changes.  If your numbers improve and you can get a cheaper policy buy a new one and quit paying premiums on the old one.  If your numbers don't improve, purchasing a policy quickly probably secures the best premium you can get. 

jeromedawg

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3307
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Just a quick update on this but I ended up going through the process for life insurance. Turns out, the RBC hematocrit counts were a concern to the underwriters and "polycythemia" is what was noted. My insurance agent is planning to incite a 'bidding war' between insurance companies by first getting me approved at a lower amount of insurance at our preferred rate ($500k) with another carrier, and then seeing if she can get other carriers to 'match' - this is a crazy process and I'm a bit concerned about the whole RBC issue now... she also mentioned what my doctor did about donating blood to 'resolve' the issue. I've never donated blood before and it freaks me out, but if that's a way to improve this particular 'issue' for my own peace of mind, then I figure I should.

She recommended I still try to lock in *something* while I can now before backing out, waiting X months or up to a year (and donating blood, etc to hopefully lower RBC as well as improving my cholesterol levels), and then going through the entire process again.