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You can’t erase any medical issues before a life insurance medical exam, but you can avoid mistakes that could lead to false test results and higher life insurance rates.

A life insurance medical exam takes about half an hour. The physician checks your blood pressure and also collects blood and urine samples. The healthier your lab results, the less you’ll pay for life insurance coverage. 

“A lot of people don’t think about preparing for the exam,” says Jo Steinberg, CEO of Midland Health in Brookfield, Wisconsin, which conducts paramedical exams for Examination Management Services Inc. (EMSI) in southern Wisconsin. “They just show up for an appointment.”

But by not preparing, your labs may provide faulty test results, which has long-term consequences — you may have to pay higher life insurance premiums for 20 to 30 years.

Read on to learn what to do  — and what not to do — before your life insurance medical exam so you can pay the lowest possible price for coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • Your age, smoking habits and health determine how much you pay for life insurance.
  • Make sure to avoid any caffeine or energy shots at least an hour before the exam.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or smoke tobacco before the medical exam.
  • Drink plenty of water the day before so you aren’t dehydrated before your exam.

Why you should prepare for the medical exam

Knowing what to do and what to avoid on your medical exam can help you present yourself to the insurance company in the best possible light.

Steinberg recalls a stockbroker who couldn’t take his eyes off the stock ticker while she conducted the exam in his office. As the market numbers scrolled by, his heart rate and blood pressure went through the roof. The readings were normal when he couldn’t watch the stock market drama.

Betsy Sears, executive vice president of sales for ExamOne, a Quest Diagnostics Co., has seen false positives for cocaine abuse in coca tea drinkers. Made from coca leaves, the tea is used to treat altitude sickness in the Andes. American travelers bring it back from South America and sip it at home, not realizing the tea metabolizes in the body similarly to cocaine.

Basically, innocent behaviors can lead your medical exam results to go haywire. Preparing and avoiding certain activities gives you the best shot of getting the best possible rates.

Here’s what to avoid before your medical exam so you can get the best results:

1. Drinking too much coffee

Stimulants like caffeine boost your blood pressure and heart rate. While it’s probably OK to have your usual cup of Joe on the morning of an exam, gulping down several cups is going to have negative side effects. 

Avoid any caffeine — including those “energy shots” — at least an hour before the exam, says Kim Anderson, founder and executive consultant of Turning Tides LLC. 

If you need to have multiple cups of coffee throughout the day, consider scheduling your medical exam early in the morning. 

2. Getting stressed out

Steinberg has often seen “white coat syndrome” boost blood pressure readings.

“People will get nervous when someone is taking their blood pressure,” she says.

Use relaxation techniques and spend time in a calm environment. 

3. Eating when you’re supposed to fast

Eating before a blood test can your elevate triglyceride and glucose readings, Sears says. Follow fasting instructions, and let the technician know if you had anything to eat and when.

4. Doing a killer workout

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you, but a strenuous workout the morning of your medical exam isn’t. An intense workout can spill protein into the urine, Sears says. This can indicate to the insurer that you have kidney problems, which will lead to higher rates. Even if the elevated protein level is temporary and due to exercise, the insurance company won’t know that. 

To get the best results on your medical exam, avoid strenuous exercise at least 12 hours before your life insurance medical exam.

5. Skimping on water

You should drink plenty of water the day before the exam and a large glass an hour beforehand.

“If you’re dehydrated, the concentration of your urine can be a bit outside the normal range,” Anderson says. “A lot of carriers look for sugar and protein and those can be elevated if you’re dehydrated.”

Dehydration also makes it tough for you to produce a urine sample and for a phlebotomist to find a vein.

6. Smoking

You can’t avoid paying smoker rates if you’re a regular tobacco user — the evidence will show up in lab tests.

But you should still avoid tobacco at least an hour before an exam, Anderson says. Nicotine is a stimulant and can elevate blood pressure, which could lead to even higher premiums. 

7. Drinking too much the night before 

A customary small glass of wine with dinner is probably OK, Sears says, but don’t overdo it. The alcohol could throw off test results for liver function.

Anderson advises avoiding all alcohol at least eight hours before the exam.

8. Binging on junk food 

Too much salt can lead to dehydration, increase your weight and throw off your test results for kidney function. To get the best results on your labs, avoid foods that are high in salt for at least 24 hours before the exam.

There are other things you can do to prepare for the medical exam and make the application process go as smoothly as possible:

Make a list of all the medications you take and bring that with you to the exam, along with identification, your doctors’ information and details about your family medical history. The medical examiner will likely go over all that information, even if you’ve already given it to your life insurance agent.

And most important, get a good night’s sleep so you are well rested before the big day.

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