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If I had to choose one life insurance underwriting guideline that causes more consternation than any other it would be the subject of cholesterol. I still get all tied in knots over the debate concerning cholesterol that I had with ING Reliastar In December and January.

I understand the underwriting need to consider cholesterol, but common sense would tell you that there is no measurable mortality difference between a total cholesterol of 220 and 222. And the reason that cholesterol becomes such a polarizing issue is that when an underwriter bumps someone a full rate class for, say, the variance I just described, the client has to try to wrap their mind around the idea of paying 30% more for something that a 5th grader can confidently tell you is not justified.

So, obviously the best thing a person can do is get regular annual or at least bi annual checkups with lab work. If you find your cholesterol creeping up on you there are non medical ways in most cases to get it to creep back down. Eating right and getting regular exercise go a long way toward helping the body self regulate things like cholesterol and blood sugar. Doing healthy things really can make you healthy. Given this tact a person can go into an exam knowing that your cholesterol is below 200 and your HDL is above 40, there won’t be any lab surprises.

If non medical cholesterol lowering attempts don’t work, there are plenty of cholesterol lowering drugs like statins that seem to work very well. And the good news is that, unlike 5 years ago, most companies will allow their best rate class even though you are being treated for cholesterol. Not so long ago, controlled or not, just the treatment was a reason to bump you one rate class. Now companies are rewarding proactive cardiac health.

While I might go round and round with an underwriter on occasion, truth is that insurance company’s guidelines are in general a little more lenient than your doctor or perhaps the American Heart Association might want. For instance, the AHA says that less than 200 is desirable for a total cholesterol reading while most insurance companies allow up to 220 for their best rate class, some as high as 240.

Bottom line. Anyone that gets caught with their HDL pants down on an insurance exam and has to pay a high rate for it probably should review their personal health practices. Health fairs or annual checkups are just the right thing to be doing and in the whole scheme of things, health aside, the cost of the annual exams will very likely be saved in lower insurance costs and a healthier life.