It’s amazing how a heart attack or a visit to the ER with chest pain can make you consider mortality. Even when you come away with a quick fix like a stent, life just seems a bit more fragile. So how do life insurance underwriters view cardiac issues? Can you get approved after someone has tuned up your ticker?

Several years ago I had a call from a man that explained that he had recently had a two vessel angioplasty and was wondering if he could get life insurance. I explained that in a lot of cases life insurance is very attainable after a cardiac procedure, but I needed a bit more information. I asked him where he was calling from, meaning with my question what state. He said he was calling from the hospital. I asked him how long ago he had the stents placed and he told me two days earlier. This guy had a sudden understanding of mortality and wanted to get protection in place right away.

I explained to him that in most cases we were looking at a year out from the angioplasty and a stress test showing good results, most importantly a strong ejection fraction which is an indicator of how much, if any, heart damage was done. We weren’t able to help him that day, but a year later he became a customer.

So, what does an underwriter want to see for optimal results in applying for life insurance after a cardiac event? First is some time. A year out from the treatment is pretty standard unless you are willing to take a big hit on rates. A few companies will consider prior to one year but they charge according to their perceived risk in stepping up early. The stress test is critical. Most cardiologists are going to have you do a stress test 6 months or so after the procedure just to see how well the repair is doing. Some wait as much as a year.

The primary indicator from the stress test that underwriters look for is the LVEF, left ventricular ejection fraction, a measure of how efficiently your heart pushes blood out of the left ventricle. Normal is in the 65% to 70% range for a person with no heart damage. Very few companies will consider coverage if a person’s LVEF is under 50%.

Other factors that they look at would be your age when the event happened. Prior to age 50 is problematic. Truth is that heart attacks at that age are out of the ordinary and indicative of aggressive heart problems. The possibility of recurrence is high. Prior to age 40 is going to be hard to find any takers at all.

Changes in life style play into underwriting. With obesity being a major risk factor for heart disease, a patient who aggressively undertakes a diet and exercise regime aimed at taking weight out of the equation will get more favorable consideration.

Cardiac rehab is something that is good to do and underwriters recognize that. What they are looking at is who is taking the issue seriously after the emergency has passed.

Bottom line. After a cardiac event you will not see preferred plus rates again, but if you do all of the right things and the damage was minimal, affordable life insurance is certainly a possibility.