What Do Life Insurance Medical Exams Test For

What do life insurance medical exams test for?

The life insurance physical exam can seem like a daunting undertaking to some. As a result, we thought we would help demystify the experience by shedding light on what the life insurance medical exam tests for.

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What Life Insurance Medical Exams Test For


Category Tests
Heart and Arteries Cholesterol, HDL, LDL, LDL/HDL Ratio, Cholesterol/HDL Ratio, Triglycerides, Diuretic in urine, and Beta Adrenergic Blockers
Kidney and Bladder Leukocyte Esterase, Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN), Urine PH Screen, Hemoglobin Screen, Creatinine, Proteinuria, Urine Creatinine, Protein/Creatinine Ratio, and Microalbumin
Liver Alkaline Phosphatase, Aspartate Amniotransferase (AST), Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT), Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase (GGT), Total Bilirubin, Total Protein, Albumin, and Globulin
Pancreas Urine Glucose, Fructosamine, and Hemoglobin A1c
Other Serum HIV, Cotinine, and drug tests

The two main areas that are examined for pre-existing conditions are your blood and urine. Which leads us to the question:

What do life insurance companies test blood and urine for?


The 5 categories life insurance companies test blood and urine for:

  1. Heart and Arteries
  2. Kidney and Bladder
  3. Liver
  4. Pancreas
  5. Other

Heart and Arteries – this represent your cardiovascular system

  • Cholesterol – fatty substance in your body needed to help keep things lubricated. There are good and bad types of cholesterol. If you have too much bad cholesterol in your blood it can stick to arteries causing blockage in your arteries leading to complications such as heart attack or stroke. Life insurance companies vary in how much total cholesterol is allowed. Some companies only allow total cholesterol of 200 for the top rate class although most have moved the parameters out to as high as 300.
  • HDL– High-Density Lipoprotein is known as your “good” cholesterol because it protects your arteries from bad cholesterol (LDL) building up in your arteries. Ideally men want above 40 HDL and women want above 50 HDL.
  • LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein is “bad” cholesterol that accumulates in arteries leading to blockage. A common cure for LDL blockage is the placement of stents.
  • LDL/HDL Ratio– LDL divided by HDL is used to determine risk for heart disease. The lower the ratio number reflects a lower risk for heart disease.
  • Cholesterol/HDL Ratio-measures total cholesterol divided by your HDL. A number below 5 is good with some companies offering a bonus if your ratio is 4.5 or below.
  • Triglycerides – fat (lipid) found in the blood. Ideally, levels below 150 are superior. Above 150 and you will probably be out of luck for the best life insurance rate class.
  • Diuretic In Urine – high blood pressure medications act as diuretic and life insurance medical exams look for the presence of diuretics to discover if you may indeed be taking a HBP medication.
  • Beta Adrenergic Blockers – test looking for potential medications taken by people with arrhythmias, high blood pressure, and other heart defects.

Kidney and Bladder – removes the waste products from urine.

  • Leukocyte Esterase – life insurance medical exams screen for the presence enzyme which may point to infections of the kidney or bladder.
  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) – used to determine a person’s overall health. Normal ranges between 10-25 are desired.
  • Urine PH Screen – tests how acidic the urine is. Normal ranges are between 4 and 8.
  • Hemoglobin Screen – used to discover if hemoglobin is present in the urine which may indicate kidney or urinary tract infection.
  • Creatinine – High levels point to possible kidney disease. Levels between 0.7 to 1.5 are normal.
  • Proteinuria (protein in urine) –may point to the presence of kidney disease.
  • Urine Creatinine – levels between 25-250 are normal. Too much can point to kidney disease.
  • Protein/Creatinine Ratio – urine protein/creatinine ratio (UP/CR) between 0.0-0.20 is ideal.
  • Microalbumin – testing for the presence of this protein. Below 0.30 is normal. Elevated levels point to kidney disease.

Liver –filtration system for your blood which produces proteins and cholesterol. 

  • Alkaline Phosphatase – an enzyme in your blood. Too much can be a sign of liver or bone disease (such as Paget’s disease). Ideal readings range from 30-100.
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) – high levels of this enzyme may be a warning sign of liver, muscle, or heart disease. A level below 40 is ideal.
  • Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) – enzyme that can signify liver disease if elevated. A level below 45 is ideal.
  • Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase (GGT) – enzyme that increases with heavy alcohol consumption or liver disease. Below 65 is normal.
  • Total Bilirubin – high bilirubin can signal gall bladder or liver disease. Normal levels are .3 to 1.8.
  • Total Protein – ranges from 6-8 are normal.
  • Albumin – low levels reflect poor nutrition and the potential for various diseases. Normal ranges are between 3.8 and 5.2.
  • Globulin – Elevated or decreased levels point to a variety of potential issues. Normal ranges are between 2.1-3.5.

Pancreas – produces hormones such as insulin which help regulate blood sugar levels and produces enzymes that aid in the digestion of food.

  • Urine Glucose – life insurance medical exams test for glucose in the urine which may point to diabetes.
  • Fructosamine – measures blood sugar levels over the past two to three weeks. You want your levels to be somewhere between 1.5 to 2.5.
  • Hemoglobin A1c – measures blood glucose over the last 90 days. A reading below 5.7 is considered normal. A reading between 5.7 and 6.4 is considered pre-diabetic. A client with a reading of 6.5 and higher is considered diabetic for life insurance purposes.


  • Serum HIV – HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
  • Cotinine – the main byproduct of nicotine, which alerts carriers to potential tobacco use. There is no definitive answer on how long nicotine stays in your system. However, the primary means life insurance companies use to discover nicotine is through a urine test. The typical timeline on how long nicotine remains in your system can be 2 days or up to 3 months.

Some additional things life insurance medical exams test for

Life insurance companies are not messing around. A background check may also be made inquiring into any:

The more life insurance coverage you apply for the more information about you the underwriter will require. The key is to be as honest as possible but to also be prepared. The last thing you want is to be declined for life insurance.

Life Insurance Medical Exam Preparation

We have a complete guide offering tips to acing your paramedical exam. But a few things you should be aware of are:

  1. Eat Well: focus on foods high in good cholesterol (HDL), avoid bad fats that can raise your bad cholesterol (LDL), avoid sugar and foods that can cause high blood glucose or high blood pressure.
  2. Drink water: drink plenty of water. Be prepared to give a urine sample. Water also helps open your veins for the blood test.
  3. Avoid exercise and alcohol: 24-48 hours before the exam, stay away from excessive alcohol and exercise. You don’t want to get dinged for an alcohol marker and you don’t want elevated proteins in your system.
  4. Fast: You will need to fast 8-12 hours prior to your paramed exam. Rather than go hungry and become irritable to all those around you, take the exam first thing in the morning and “fast” in your sleep.
  5. Sleep well: Get a good night’s rest. Don’t overthink the life insurance physical and don’t stay up late. A good night’s rest will do wonders for your overall well being.
  6. Morning Preparation: remember to drink water but avoid eating. Lock out your elbow for the blood draw as it makes the blood test virtually painless. Stretch for those few inches on your height measurement and wear light clothing.

Want to make sure you are ready for your exam? Read our article on how to ace your life insurance physical exam: 6 money saving tips. This article covers everything from the food to eat before your exam, what to refrain from prior to the exam, and tips for the morning of your life insurance health exam.

The process of obtaining coverage consists of first choosing a product from the different types of life insurance policies. If you choose a life insurance product that requires a medical exam then the next step after filing out an application is for an examiner to come to your home and conduct an exam. You can avoid having to take an exam by choosing no medical exam life insurance. We work with companies that offer up to $1,000,000 in coverage and up to $2,000,000 no exam life insurance for second to die life insurance.

Not sure if no exam life insurance is right for you? Read our article on the advantages of no exam versus exam life insurance. For addition information regarding which insurance companies we feel are currently offering the best no medical life insurance options, please visit our article: Top 10 No Medical Exam Life Insurance Companies.

If you choose to take an exam the examiner will meet you at home, your place of business, or you can come by the exam office. The exam consists of the examiner taking your height and weight, blood pressure, urine sample and blood sample. At times an EKG will also be required for older clients or for clients looking to get a large amount of life insurance death benefit coverage.

The examiner will also inquire into who your primary care physician is as well as any other doctors you have seen recently. Finally, the examiner will request your see driver’s license for identification purposes.

Upon completion of your life insurance health exam, the examiner may have some additional application questions to go over with you. The examiner will ask questions about your health and lifestyle which will probably be a repeat of what your agent already asked you. One reason they do this is to be thorough but another reason this is done is to look for inconsistencies. Inconsistent answers raise red flags with the life insurance underwriter who may request additional information such as physician statements.

A typical life insurance medical examination will take between 15-30 minutes and between 30-45 minutes if an EKG is required (typically for clients 60 and up and for those qualifying for larger face amounts).

Once your physical for life insurance is completed your lab results will typically be available for personal review within the next 7-14 days.

Another process that is going on at the same time is the company will look into any existing medical history by running your information through the MIB Medical Information Bureau, Prescription Database and Motor Vehicle Records to see if anything “pops” up. They are looking for any red flags, including any pre-exsiting medical conditions.

Additionally, insurers want to know about your family health history as well, as much of our health has to do with our genetics. And if you have ever had genetic testing done, that information may also be considered if it made its way into your record.

Your lab specimens are sent to a lab company which prepares your labs for the life insurance underwriter. The underwriter will review your life insurance laboratory results and offer you a health rate class based on the results of your labs.

The better your health rate class, the longer your life expectancy, the lower your life insurance premium.

Once the entire application process has been completed and your policy has been approved for issue, your policy will then be sent to you for review as well as any additional delivery requirements.

Once again, we invite you to read our entire life insurance paramed tips article for more.

Why should I be concerned with what a life insurance exam tests for?

Knowledge is power. Knowing what the exam tests for may give you an edge so that you can obtain a better rate class than had you not had this information. And on certain life insurance policies, such as those used to fund buy sell agreements, irrevocable life insurance trusts or key person business insurance, a better rate class may mean thousands of dollars in savings.

And above all else, make sure you have options!

The key to achieving the best rate and finding the cheapest life insurance is to go with the best company for your specific health and lifestyle profile. There is no “best” life insurance company. The truth is there are a ton of companies to choose from. That is where we come in.

About TermLife2Go

We are not a life insurance company. We are comprised of seasoned life insurance professionals whose sole purpose is to find you the best company based on your specific needs, wants and goals.

With so many life insurance companies to choose from, we can help narrow down your choices and provide you with options of the carriers with specific niches that provide more liberal underwriting for your health or lifestyle. Our job is to know the various niches and place you with the company tailored for you.

So, what are you waiting for?  Give us a call today and see what we can do for you!

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