One of the unpleasant realities of getting a life insurance policy is the medical exam*. It’s really not that big of a deal. In most cases it’s as simple as a nurse taking blood, urine, blood pressure and some physical measurements. They come to your home or office and are in and out in twenty to thirty minutes. You can’t change how you treated your body over the last few decades, but you can fix how you treat your body in the hours leading up to your exam. Ultimately your exam results can make a big difference in the price you are asked to pay for your insurance.
I usually try to coach my clients up a little bit. Some of the “Don’t Dos” though are so obvious and sometimes seems more than a bit patronizing to remind clients directly. I ran across this article from Barbara Marquand that appeared February 25, 2015 on lifehealthpro.com. Here is a link to the full article. I’ve decided to leave a copy of her article with my clients when they apply for a policy with a medical exam.
Here are her 8 ways people blow medical exams:
1. Drinking too much coffee
It’s probably OK to have your usual cup of Joe the morning of an exam, but gulping down several cups is a bad idea. Avoid any caffeine — including those “energy shots” — at least an hour before the exam, says Kim Anderson, senior vice president of EMSI’s Insurance Services Division.
Stimulants like caffeine boost blood pressure and heart rate. Get a good night’s sleep so you don’t need a big jolt to get going.
2. Getting stressed out
Steinberg has often seen “white coat syndrome” boost blood pressure readings.
“People will get nervous when they see that someone with authority is taking their blood pressure,” she says.
Use relaxation techniques, and spend time in a calm environment. Save the confrontation with your boss for after the exam.
3. Eating when you’re supposed to fast
Eating before a blood test can 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
Exercise is good for you over the long haul, but a strenuous workout can spill protein into the urine, Sears says. Even if the elevated protein level is temporary and due to exercise, the insurance company won’t know that. High protein levels in urine can indicate kidney problems. EMSI recommends no strenuous exercise at least 12 hours before the exam.
5. Skimping on water
“A lot of people are under the false impression if they stay away from fluids, their weight will go down,” Steinberg says.
But that’s not the case, and 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.” (over)
Dehydration also makes it tough for you to produce a urine sample and for a phlebotomist to find a vein.
“It’s like getting blood from a turnip,” Steinberg says.
You can’t avoid nicotine rates if you’re a regular tobacco user — the evidence will show up in lab tests. But you should still avoid any tobacco at least an hour before an exam, Anderson says. Nicotine is a stimulant and can elevate blood pressure.
7. Getting drunk 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 pretzels and chips
Too much salt can lead to dehydration, boost your weight and throw off tests for kidney function. Avoid unusually salty foods 24 hours before the exam.
Finally make a list of all the medications you take and bring that with you to the exam, along with identification, your doctors’ names and phone numbers and information about your family medical history. The paramedical examiner will likely go over all that information, even if you’ve already given it to your life insurance agent.
Finally two bonus tips from me:
First, schedule your exam first thing in the morning. It makes all of the above easier to avoid.
Second, if you do screw up and your body won’t be at it’s best for the exam, call and reschedule. Do let the examiner know ASAP, but don’t take the exam if you tied one on the night before or got into an awful argument with some one and are stressed.
All of that said, if you follow all the simple suggestions above you will be just fine. Relax and get it done!
*Note that many carriers offer a variety of policies without a medical exam. If you really have an aversion to exams there may be a non-medical alternative available.