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BMI or Body Mass Index

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BMI's impact on qualifying for term life

The Body Mass Index's effect

It might be one of the most important numbers you have never heard of...the BMI or Body Mass Index.  It's the new fashioned term used to determine if someone is overweight.  As you would expect, it has an impact on our ability to qualify for life insurance so it's important to acquaint ourselves.   Now, on to the wonderful and increasingly important world of BMI's.

First, what is a BMI and how it is different from weight?  Body Mass Index sounds pretty complicated.  Essentially, your BMI is a  measure of body fat derived by comparing your height and weight.  Why not just use weight?  The BMI standardizes the measurement so that you can accurately compare someone of any height against the average.  For example, 170 pounds on a 5' 9" individual may be fine but not so good for some one 5' 2".  By creating relationship between height and weight, everyone can then be measured on that scale regardless of height.

Why is BMI important to both your health and consequently, qualifying for life insurance?  Many illness that impact both morbidity (chance of getting sick) and mortality (chance of passing away) are intimately tied to BMI.  Some of the biggest killers in America from heart disease and stroke to certain types of cancers may have roots in a higher BMI.  The net take away is that fat in the body is active and not very good for you.  Most life insurance companies now frame their underwriting requirements in terms of BMI. 

Let's look at the general categories.  First, if your BMI is under 18.5, you're usually considered underweight.  Be careful that this can be a sign of health issues just as being overweight can be.   This isn't just thin...this is unhealthy.  For example, a 5' 9" male would have to be under 125 pounds.  I'm personally 5'9" and I can't even imagine 125 pounds.  It's rare that we see this situation (especially in today's America) but it does happen.  A Normal BMI is considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9.  Again, for a 5'9" person, this would be from 125 to 169 pounds.  This is still tough to do but the ramifications of being overweight for longer stretches of time are serious.  Overweight is considered to be a BMI of 25-29.9.  For our 5' 9" example, that would be 170 to 203 pounds.  A BMI of 30 or greater is considered Obesity and some scales go on to discuss Morbidly Obese which would be a BMI of 40 or great.    You can find your BMI here

BMI Categories:
  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight = 25-29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
  • Morbidly Obese = BMI of 40 or greater

How will the life insurance companies view your BMI data.  For most carriers, the BMI comes into play for the Obesity category and Underweight category.  The first is a function of its effect on the health conditions that drive mortality (heart attack, cancer, stroke, etc).  The second is as possible indication of some serious and potentially un-diagnosed health issue.  Extreme weight loss or extreme low BMI might indicate other issues.   Our experience is that the Overweight category by itself is not an overwhelming deal-breaker for life insurance but may be looked at in conjunction with other contributing issues such as elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  These tend to accompany a higher BMI.  Obesity is another issue.  Obesity alone can cause issues in qualifying for term life insurance at least at the best rate.  For our 5' 9" example, this means carrying at least an extra 30 plus pounds.  What if your extra weight is the result of being a body builder?   I've actually had this situation.  It was still an issue since the extra muscle mass still required extra work from the person's heart. 

So what if your BMI is very high?  There are still options.  We have life insurance plans that do not require medical exam.  These are also know as high life insurance.  Your height and weight are still required but the plans have a simplified underwriting since there's usually a restriction on the amount of coverage offered.  A least we have this option.  If you feel you may have issues, please contact us regarding your situation and we'll see if we can find term life insurance to match your BMI and situation.




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