might be one of the most important
numbers you have never heard of...the
BMI or Body Mass Index. It's the
new fashioned term used to determine if
someone is overweight. As you
would expect, it has an impact on our
ability to qualify for life insurance so
it's important to acquaint ourselves.
Now, on to the wonderful and increasingly
important world of BMI's.
First, what is a BMI and how it is
different from weight? Body Mass
Index sounds pretty complicated.
Essentially, your BMI is a measure
of body fat derived by comparing your
height and weight. Why not just
use weight? The BMI standardizes
the measurement so that you can
accurately compare someone of any height
against the average. For example,
170 pounds on a 5' 9" individual may be
fine but not so good for some one 5' 2".
By creating relationship between height
and weight, everyone can then be
measured on that scale regardless of
Why is BMI important to both your health
qualifying for life
insurance? Many illness that
impact both morbidity (chance of getting
sick) and mortality (chance of passing
away) are intimately tied to BMI.
Some of the biggest killers in America
from heart disease and stroke to certain
types of cancers may have roots in a
higher BMI. The net take away is
that fat in the body is active and not
very good for you. Most life
insurance companies now frame their
underwriting requirements in terms of
Let's look at the general categories.
First, if your BMI is under 18.5, you're
usually considered underweight. Be
careful that this can be a sign of
health issues just as being overweight
can be. This isn't just
thin...this is unhealthy. For
example, a 5' 9" male would have to be
under 125 pounds. I'm personally
5'9" and I can't even imagine 125
pounds. It's rare that we see this
situation (especially in today's
America) but it does happen. A
Normal BMI is considered to be between
18.5 and 24.9. Again, for a 5'9"
person, this would be from 125 to 169
pounds. This is still tough to do
but the ramifications of being
overweight for longer stretches of time
are serious. Overweight is
considered to be a BMI of 25-29.9.
For our 5' 9" example, that would be 170
to 203 pounds. A BMI of 30 or
greater is considered Obesity and some
scales go on to discuss Morbidly Obese
which would be a BMI of 40 or great.
You can find your BMI
Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight =
Overweight = 25-29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30
Morbidly Obese = BMI
of 40 or greater
How will the
life insurance companies
view your BMI data. For most
carriers, the BMI comes into play for
the Obesity category and Underweight
category. The first is a function
of its effect on the health conditions
that drive mortality (heart attack,
cancer, stroke, etc). The second
is as possible indication of some serious and
potentially un-diagnosed health issue.
Extreme weight loss or extreme low BMI
might indicate other issues.
Our experience is that the Overweight
category by itself is not an
overwhelming deal-breaker for life
insurance but may be looked at in
conjunction with other contributing
issues such as elevated cholesterol,
high blood pressure, and diabetes.
These tend to accompany a higher BMI.
Obesity is another issue. Obesity
alone can cause issues in qualifying for
term life insurance at least at the best
rate. For our 5' 9" example, this
means carrying at least an extra 30 plus
pounds. What if your extra weight
is the result of being a body builder?
I've actually had this situation.
It was still an issue since the extra
muscle mass still required extra work
from the person's heart.
what if your BMI is very high?
There are still options. We have
plans that do not require medical exam.
These are also know as high life
insurance. Your height and weight
are still required but the plans have a
simplified underwriting since there's
usually a restriction on the amount of
coverage offered. A least we have
this option. If you feel you may
have issues, please contact us regarding
your situation and we'll see if we can
find term life insurance to match your
BMI and situation.