Some life insurance companies request blood testing, including cholesterol levels, because these scores are one indication of your overall health. Having higher scores may mean paying higher premiums.

High cholesterol is a common health concern. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 38% of American adults have high cholesterol. That’s about 94 million people. Despite how common this condition is, it may make it difficult to secure an affordable life insurance policy.

Life insurance companies offer the best rates to people in good health. Some life insurance companies require blood testing when applying for life insurance. High cholesterol may increase the price of life insurance. Depending on the insurance company, it could even cause your application to be denied.

However, there are insurance companies that don’t require these blood tests.

Life insurance companies may use a variety of underwriting measures to assess standards for health. This includes readings like blood pressure and cholesterol. There’s no universal standard that is required by all life insurance companies.

However, life insurance companies look for people in good health. This means that insurance companies will usually require cholesterol test results that fall within standard healthy ranges.

Understanding cholesterol levels

There are three main types of cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the cholesterol that is typically referred to as “bad” cholesterol. It can build up on the walls of your arteries.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL): High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the cholesterol that is typically called “good” cholesterol. This type of cholesterol can carry excess amounts of LDL back to your liver so that they can be eliminated.
  • Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL): Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) is a type of LDL that is typically called a “bad” cholesterol. It can build up on the walls of your arteries.

Cholesterol levels are measured in a test called a lipid panel. This test also includes measuring a type of fat in the blood called triglycerides.

High triglycerides can also increase your risk of heart disease. A lipid panel will also give you a reading of your total cholesterol. Total cholesterol is your LDL, HDL, and triglycerides (TG/5) levels combined.

Ideally, you should have low LDL cholesterol and lipids and higher HDL cholesterol. It’s best to have a low ratio of total cholesterol to HDL. You can find this ratio by dividing your total cholesterol by your HDL level.

Total cholesterol ranges

Cholesterol ranges fall into these categories:

  • Desirable: below 200 mg/dl
  • Borderline high: between 200 mg/dl and 239 mg/d
  • High: over 240 mg/dl

LDL cholesterol ranges

  • Optimal: less than 100 mg/dL
  • Near optimal/above optimal: 100 to 129 mg/dL
  • Borderline high: 130 to 159 mg/dL
  • High: 160 to 189 mg/dL
  • Very High: 190 mg/dL and above

HDL cholesterol ranges

  • Risk factor for heart disease: below 40 mg/dl (at risk for heart disease)
  • The higher, the better: 40 to 59 mg/dL (higher numbers are better)
  • Protective against heart disease: above 60 mg/dl (protective against heart disease)

Cholesterol is an important substance found in all the cells of your body. Your body uses cholesterol to build healthy cells. However, high levels of cholesterol can have dangerous health complications.

High LDL cholesterol can cause a buildup in the walls of your arteries. These fatty deposits can build up and form a sticky substance plaque, which can reduce the blood flow through your arteries.

Having a buildup of plaque in your arteries can cause a narrowing of the arteries called atherosclerosis. Left untreated, atherosclerosis may lead to serious health complications. This includes:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD): CAD is the result of plaque buildup. It may cause symptoms such as chest pain and increase the risk of a heart attack.
  • Heart attack: Pieces of plaque break away from your artery walls. These chunks of plaque may narrow an artery and may cause a blood clot to form. This blood clot may block your artery. When the blood flow to any part of your heart is stopped, it results in a heart attack.
  • Stroke: A stroke may happen if a blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood to the brain is either blocked by a blood clot or bursts, causing brain cells to die.

High cholesterol alone may not cause your life insurance application to be denied, but it may cause the insurance company to offer you a higher premium than someone whose cholesterol is in the healthy range. Life insurance companies generally look at the total picture of your health, and your cholesterol is just one factor the company may consider.

How do life insurance companies test cholesterol?

Many life insurance companies require medical exams before they decide on your application. During this exam, a medical assistant or phlebotomist will draw your blood for a series of lab tests, including a lipid panel that measures your cholesterol level.

Do you always need a medical exam to get life insurance?

No. Not all life insurance companies require a medical exam.

However, you may still be asked to list your most recent cholesterol reading on your application. The insurance company might review your medical records to verify your cholesterol levels and other health information. You’ll need to authorize this access during your application process.

Does high cholesterol cause symptoms?

There are no symptoms of high cholesterol. While CAD can cause chest pain, high cholesterol on its own has no signs or symptoms. It can only be found during a blood test.

What food should I avoid if I have high cholesterol?

Lifestyle changes are a great way to lower your cholesterol. This typically means cutting out or reducing the frequency of eating foods high in saturated fats, such as red meat, cheese, and full-fat dairy.

High cholesterol can lead to serious and life threatening complications. It may also make it more difficult to get a life insurance policy at a low premium.

If you have high cholesterol and other health conditions, or if your cholesterol has led to complications, your life insurance application could be denied, or you may be quoted a higher premium.