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BMI for Life Insurance

Don't miss these facts...
  • BMI or Body Mass Index measures not only a person’s weight but the composition of the body as well
  • Normal BMI is below 25, overweight is from 25 to 30, and if a BMI is above 30 a person is considered to be obese
  • Life insurance companies look very closely at a person’s BMI when consideration is given to applicants because a higher BMI can be the cause of serious medical conditions that shorten a person’s life
  • If a person’s BMI is in the overweight of Obese class, their life insurance may be rated or declined
  • If an individual loses weight and keeps it off for a period, life insurance ratings and declinations can be reversed
BMI, or body mass index is a measurement of height and weight according to a predetermined scale. The formula for BMI is the weight of a person divided by the square of the height the height in meters.

It is used universally by many physicians, hospitals as an indicator of a person’s overall health status. It is used by life insurance companies as a measurement for eligibility for the purchase of life insurance coverage.

The BMI of a person can be correlated to body fatness and a measurement of the general health of an individual. In short, it is a predictable measurement of possible future illness and metabolic outcomes of diseases about the height and weight of an individual.

A BMI that is under 25 can be considered normal for an adult. A BMI from 25 to 30 could be considered overweight and any number for the BMI that is over 30 means that the individual could be bordering on being obese.

Of course, there are degrees because as a number increases it is just that much worse on the scale.

Interestingly, in 1998 when the U.S. Government initiated a program to make people of how weight affected people’s health, the threshold for being overweight on the BMI index was lowered from 27.5 to 25.

This put millions of people who were formerly in good shape from the standpoint of their weight, at being overweight immediately.

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Life Insurance and Overweight People

AdobeStock_110636735-1600x1600Life insurance companies and their underwriters look at every possible thing that might adversely affect a person’s health and longevity. Certainly, gross overweight conditions cause concern as a person who is overweight usually has other health problems.

Obesity is defined as a weight condition where a person weighs at least 20 percent or more than what is determined to be a normal weight for a person of normal weight for a particular height.

Weighing too much puts a strain on the heart, as it has to exert more effort to pump the blood, and on other organs which have to cope with the extra weight.

People who are overweight have more incidence of diabetes, heart attack and strokes, hypertension or high blood pressure, gout, cancer, sleep apnea, gallbladder problems, and osteoarthritis.

From the standpoint of issuing life insurance, these are all potential red flags, if not outright ratable and declinable conditions, depending upon the length of time an applicant is affected and the depth and seriousness of the condition.

The Role of the Home Office Life Underwriter

The home office life underwriter is in fact, the gatekeeper for the life insurance company, as he or she is a risk selection expert.

It is the job of the home office underwriter to gather as much information as possible from the insurance application, medical reports, if necessary, background information, occupation information, and information about hazardous hobbies, activities, and relationships.

When observing obesity, the underwriter will want to know as much as possible about how long a person has been heavy, and what, if any, conditions have developed around the applicant being overweight and how chronic these conditions have become.

In this way, it is possible to estimate the general outcome over time so a rating or declination can be applied to the policy.

It must be kept in mind that a life insurance company is going to make a financial commitment for a long time when the decision is made to pay a large sum of money if a person should die prematurely.

Consequently, there will be a detailed study about a person’s health and habits before making such a contractual agreement. It is only common sense to do so.

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

The Background of BMI


AdobeStock_65202914-1600x1600The use of the BMI index, or the Body Mass Index, has been around for quite a while. A Belgian statistician and mathematician by the name of Adolphe Quetelet devised the Quetelet Index of Obesity in 1832.

His formula of w/h2 or the weight of a person in kilograms divided by the person’s height squared equaled this index that we know today as the BMI.

The BMI index did not come into common use in today’s usage until around 1980. Before that time, doctors used a height-weight table that used tables, one for men and another for women, to measure the differences in weights between individuals.

These measurements were somewhat erratic because the results only gave a measurement for weight without accounting for bodily composition.

Since then, BMI has become an international means of accounting for not only the weight of a person but to also allow for the composition of a person’s body.

For example, it has been determined that a person with excess belly fat has a higher disposition for heart problems and other diseases such as diabetes. This is accounted for in the BMI measurement method, but not in the height-weight tables.

Interestingly, in 1998 the U.S. Federal Government lowered the BMI scale from 27.5 to 25 as the threshold for being overweight. This caused about 30 million people to move from a “healthy weight” category to that of being overweight.

The move was to make people aware of an effort to become more aware of how they could lose weight by diet and exercise in order to live longer and healthier.

Reduction of the BMI and Good Health

The secret of losing weight is very simple, yet sometimes difficult to accomplish. The simple answer to losing weight is to consume less calories than your body needs on a daily basis in order to function properly.

Thousands of diets and exercise programs have been devised over the years, yet people continue to gain weight. Part of the problem is the glut of process foods that permeate our grocery store shelves.

Food companies discovered that by mass producing many foods with chemical substitutes and high doses of fructose, which is really sugar to make it taste good, much of the nutritional value of the food is lost.

We also live in a sugar-crazed society where soft drinks and desserts rule.It is very difficult to resist a great pie, cake or a big bottle of soda when they taste so good, but those good tasting treats are killing us.

It is also very difficult to resist a good meat and potatoes meal, but more and more people are doing just that.

Purposeful exercise is one of the healthiest activities in which we can engage because it burns calories that our bodies accumulate and store as fat when we eat more calories than we consume.

When our weight goes down and stays down, life insurance is easier and cheaper to purchase and our health and longevity prosper in the process.

In Conclusion

AdobeStock_700433-1600x1600Our body weight is a factor of our own discipline in how we are able to control our diets and exercise routines. There are hundreds of good diets both n the commercial realm and those that are free.

The best exercise is simply to walk every day, either in the great outdoors or on your own treadmill. People who exercise live longer and tend to eat better by choice.

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