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There is a common misconception that has floated around for the past 100 years or so of my life that if a person has cardiac problems, a heart attack, or coronary artery disease (CAD) requiring heart bypass surgery or an angioplasty, they are irreparably damaged in their ability to get life insurance, especially affordable life insurance.

This isn’t a simple thumbs up or down issue, but generally speaking in the absence of severe damage caused by a heart attack or chronic CAD requiring multiple procedures, insurability is not an issue. It will absolutely be at higher rates than someone who hasn’t had any cardiac issues, but affordable in most cases.

Some of the things that underwriters look for in heart attack cases would be:
1. Age of occurrence (better after age 50 than before)
2. Risk factors (obesity, high cholesterol levels, family history, high blood pressure, etc)
3. The amount of damage (usually measured on a stress test by the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF). Over 50% is insurable. Under 50% generally not, but would be weighed against offsetting factors.

In the case of CAD in the absence of a heart attack underwriters look at:
1. Age of onset (again, better after 50, not so good before 50, very challenging before 40)
2. Number of vessels effected (blocked). A single vessel blockage is better than what would be considered a more aggressive or pervasive multiple vessel blockage.
3. Again, risk factors. What underwriters are looking for here is whether your risk factors will tend to push you toward chronic CAD. If you have a good build and get plenty of exercise and do what it takes to control cholesterol and blood pressure, that’s a good thing. If you are overweight, don’t exercise and don’t get your cholesterol and blood pressure under control, the risk you pose to an insurance underwriter is much greater.
4. Underwriters will want to see a stress test usually at least 6 months to a year post procedure to determine the extent of any damage and how well the repair job went.

In spite of the myth, heart issues are insurable and usually at affordable rates. If you are applying for insurance, be prepared to answer the questions posed above. Know your cholesterol. Know your blood pressure. Know what meds you are taking. Know the date of your last stress test and get a copy of it. It is much easier for an independent agent to successfully shop for you armed with facts than being armed with generalities (the doctor says I’m doing fine). It would be a rare person who would know and a rare doctor who would discuss your LVEF. Underwriters have to know it in order to assess your application correctly.

Bottom line. If you’ve had a cardiac event, don’t throw in the life insurance towel. First and foremost, don’t go to your local State Farm or Farmers agent with your desire for life insurance unless you have a fondness for rejection. An independent agent will have access to companies that understand the underwriting of heart issues and provide your best possibility of success.