Much has been made about cholesterol over the years. It went from an unknown quantity to a household word that carried with it the weight of heart disease and heart attacks. Who of has not seen a TV commercial with little pieces of plaque sticking together in an artery and we all know where that story is headed.

When you apply for life insurance and complete your exam, one of the lab results is your total cholesterol. Most companies want to see that number below 220 for consideration for the best rate class. Some want to see it below 205. The most lenient of the big companies has their standard set at 240.

In the whole scheme of things this would appear to be all over the map with nearly at 15% difference between the most conservative and most liberal underwriting. Where it is all brought back together is when HDL and LDL are considered, good cholesterol and bad cholesterol if you will. It is generally accepted that good cholesterol, in adequate quantities, trumps total cholesterol. A ratio of 5.0 or better is considered optimal from an underwriting standpoint, while there are a few companies that follow a more conservative 4.5. Putting that in context, if your total cholesterol is 200, a ratio of 5.0 would be accomplished with HDL of 40. In the attached labs from 2006 from one of my health fair visits, you see a total cholesterol of 156 with HDL of 44, for a 3.1 ratio.


A lower ratio like this can allow an underwriter to consider, for instance, a total cholesterol that would be over the normal guidelines. While they aren’t going to stretch those boundaries too far, a good independent agent will generally find an underwriter that understands the offsetting value of high HDL.

Bottom line. We’ve all heard that knowledge is power. Awareness of your health profile is power. Knowing where you stand with risk factors gives you the upper hand in beating the odds.