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Early on in my work with cardiac patients needing life insurance I learned to ignore what they remembered their cardiologist telling them about their prognosis, and just dig for facts. The most important fact that we needed uncovered and on the table was the amount of damage the heart muscle incurred.

Cardiologists, as near as I can tell, are taught in school to tell their patients that, having survived a heart attack or angioplasty or bypass surgery, “that they now had the heart of a much younger person”. That would be nice if it was true. A brush with the leading cause of death in men somehow does not equate to you somehow, suddenly, having the heart of a much younger person unless you happened to have a transplant in the mix and literally did have the heart of a younger person.

The measure of strength of the heart and therefore the measure of how much damage has occurred is generally drawn from one of the results of an imaged stress test, the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF). It is literally a measure of how effectively the heart is able to move blood out of the left ventricle, the heart’s primary pumping chamber. The heart’s function is to pump blood and if that ability is impaired, the rest of the body that is dependent on that flow suffers to some extent.

Clients often get weary of my need for the facts, but it is those facts that lead to accurate life insurance quotes and ultimately a successful search for the best possible life insurance rates. When I don’t take the cardiologist’s rosy synopsis without seeing a copy of the last stress test I am often perceived as “asking too many questions”. I am told more often than I can count that “other agents will give me quotes without all of that”. What life insurance seekers don’t understand is that ultimately the underwriters at the insurance companies will be looking for the very information I asked about and, if they deferred to an agent who wasn’t so bothersome up front, the chances of the end result, the approval, being the same as the beginning, the quote, is very slim indeed.

Underwriters evaluating risk in cardiac cases want to know your age when the condition was first diagnosed. They want to know what happened and what was done. They want to know how many vessels were affected. They want to know how often you see your cardiologist and when your last stress test was. (I just had one client who told me it was two years ago, which is kind of a hinge time for underwriters. Less than two years is good, more isn’t. So I asked him to check and he came back and said it was actually 5 years ago. My how time flies when you are ignoring your health and your cardiologist’s recommendations). They want to know your LVEF. If it is more than 50% you are still in the game. If it is less than 50% you had better hope that some offsetting factor will lead an underwriter to make a highly rated offer. That would be good news as most often less than 50% is an automatic decline.

Bottom line. Most doctors aren’t going to do it for you, so educate yourself. If you can’t answer the question, “how much damage was done”, get copies of your tests and Google the results and find out what they mean. Make a list of questions and demand answers. If a run at life insurance is in your future, seek out the independent agent that asks the most questions, not the least.