A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Car Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jul 31, 2020

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Don't miss these facts...

  • Life insurance companies look very closely at a person’s BMI, as it can be an indicator of serious medical conditions
  • A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal for an adult. However, a BMI that is above 30 is considered obese.
  • If a person’s BMI is in the overweight or obese class, their life insurance may be rated or declined

BMI, or body mass index, is used universally by many physicians and hospitals as an indicator of a person’s overall health status. And when it comes to obtaining a life insurance policy, here’s what you need to know:

Unavoidable truth: Your BMI affects your life insurance rates.

While your BMI isn’t the only health factor life insurance companies consider, it is an important one.

The BMI of a person can be correlated to obesity and is also a measurement of the general health of an individual. It is, therefore, a predictable measurement of possible future illnesses and diseases.

When it’s all said and done, this two-digit number that can ultimately impact on what you pay in life insurance premiums. Today, we’re breaking down what you need to know about your BMI, and what it could mean in terms of getting life insurance.

We know that your BMI isn’t the only number you need to keep an eye on. Begin comparing life insurance rates now by entering your ZIP code into our free life insurance comparison tool.

How does your BMI affect life insurance rates?

Life insurance companies and their underwriters look at every possible thing that might adversely affect a person’s health and longevity. A person who is overweight is more likely to have a higher BMI. And as a result, a person who is overweight is more likely to have other health problems.

What is BMI (Body Mass Index)?

Let’s begin with the basics of how a person’s BMI is determined. To calculate your BMI, divide your weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared, and then multiply that number by 703. In other words:

BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

This naturally begs the question: what’s considered a good BMI? Here’s a quick breakdown according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • A BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight
  • A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal for an adult
  • A BMI from 25 to 29.9 is generally considered overweight
  • Any BMI that is over 30 means that the individual could be obese

Now that you have a better understanding of what makes a good or not-so-good BMI, we can dig deeper into how BMI affects life insurance rates.

BMI and Life Insurance Rates

Life insurance companies and their underwriters look at every possible thing that might adversely affect a person’s health and longevity. As we mentioned earlier, a person who is overweight is more likely to have other health problems.

We know that having a BMI over 30 is an indicator of obesity. But what is obesity? Obesity is defined as a serious health condition where a person weighs 20 percent or more than what’s medically determined as the healthy weight for a person of their age, gender, and height.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Health Information Center (NIDDK) reports a number of health risks tied to being overweight and obese. This includes:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack and strokes
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Gout
  • Cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Osteoarthritis.

From the standpoint of issuing life insurance, these are all potential red flags that can affect your rates. Someone with a higher BMI who has any of these medical issues can be viewed as an applicant with pre-existing conditions, which can make getting affordable life insurance a challenge.

In other words, if you have a high BMI and serious health conditions, you are likely to end up paying higher rates.

But here’s something important to keep in mind: when it comes to your BMI, there is an exception to every rule. And for some, a higher BMI may not necessarily be an indicator of poor health.

Here’s why: BMI doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle. Healthy people with high levels of muscle mass, such as athletes, may end up with a higher BMI simply because of the weight of their muscle.

Another potential misread can be seen in elderly individuals who have lost bone and muscle mass over time. They may have a BMI that reads normal, when in fact, they may not be in great health.

As a result, life insurance companies will conduct a detailed study of a person’s health and habits — not simply looking at BMI alone — before making a contractual agreement.

Even if a rating is applied to a policy of a person with a higher BMI and health problems, that rating can eventually be reduced or if the person loses weight and keeps the weight off for a period of sustained time.

Given these considerations, it’s important to understand that the type of life insurance you end up getting will also have bearing on your bottom line. S,o whether you get term life insurance, whole life insurance, or universal life insurance, be sure to do your homework.

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Improving your BMI (and Life Insurance Rates)

If you have a high BMI as a result of being overweight, there’s no doubt that you’ll want to make some changes. The simple solution? Eat well and exercise.

In terms of eating well, it’s all about choosing the diet that works best for you. For some, it will be a high protein/low carb diet. For others, it will be consuming more fruits and vegetables. And still, others will go for more unconventional methods of losing weight, like a juice cleanse or the One Meal A Day Diet (OMAD).

Those interested, take note: Both juicing and intermittent fasting should be approached with extreme caution and medical advisement.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to make a priority of exercise.

Exercise is one of the healthiest activities in which we can engage because it burns calories that our bodies may normally tend to accumulate and store as fat.

What you choose to do for exercise, as well as how often you do it, will depend on a lot of factors. But the main thing is that you find a plan and stick to it.

Bottom line? When our weight goes down and stays down, our health and longevity not only improve, but life insurance quotes that are cheaper will be much easier to come by.

Frequently Asked Questions: How BMI Affects Life Insurance Rates

From how your life insurance rates are determined, to whether BMI is tied to life expectancy — we’re answering your frequently asked questions.

Does your weight affect your life insurance?

In many ways, it can. The logic is this: if you are overweight, you are more likely to have health problems. The more health problems you have – especially those that could shorten your lifespan – the more difficult it can be to secure lower life insurance rates.

Keep in mind, life insurance underwriters are looking at the big picture. Part of that picture includes your weight.

Does your age affect your BMI?

In some cases, it can.

According to the CDC, older people tend to have more body fat than younger people, and will, therefore, have a higher BMI. However, as we mentioned earlier, elderly individuals experiencing muscle and bone loss may end up with a lower BMI that doesn’t accurately portray their health.

How are life insurance rates determined?

Life insurance companies look to a variety of factors to determine how much you will pay. Some of them include your age, your health, tobacco use, your gender, family medical history, your occupation (i.e., whether it’s considered high risk), and more.

Of course, other factors will come into play. For instance, how much life insurance you need will undoubtedly drive the cost up or down.

Your best bet in getting a full picture of what your costs will look like is to search quotes or speak to an agent.

Your BMI is an extremely important measurement of your overall health, and can make or break your chances of getting an affordable life insurance policy. If it is too high, you could be denied altogether. Therefore, it’s important to do your research now.

For many, this will begin with seeking out a medical professional to determine your BMI. But it doesn’t stop there. Begin comparing rates for life insurance by entering your ZIP code into our free life insurance comparison tool now.