Posted 4 Jun 2020

Getting life insurance with Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Author – Daniel Sharpe-Szunko

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, rarely ever has any visible symptoms, but can increase the chances of dangerous problems like heart attack or stroke. As it has no noticeable indicators, the only way to find out if you have hypertension is to get your blood pressure checked. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to fatal consequences so a check can quite literally save your life.

In this blog we‘ll explain how having hypertension can affect life insurance and travel insurance.

Why we’re able to provide this information

iam|INSURED is a passionate team of experts with over 20 year’s experience helping people with medical conditions to get life insurance. We’ve helped thousands of people to protect their families, homes and businesses regardless of their health. It’s our mission to drive for fair treatment for all of our customers and to help them get the best results.

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is when the pressure of the blood in your arteries is consistently too high. Arteries are the blood vessels that deliver blood from the heart to other areas of your body and you need blood pressure to get the blood moving. Your blood pressure will go up and down during the day depending on if you are exercising or resting. However, if your blood pressure is typically high at all times then it needs to be treated.

Every person’s blood pressure is different so what is high for you may not be high for someone else. This is why it isimportant to get it checked by a medical professional. Hypertension, if left untreated, can lead to serious conditions like heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.

History of Hypertension

Although our understanding of hypertension has only solidified in the past few hundred years sinceStephen Hales, an English Clergyman, made the first published measurement of blood pressure in 1733, human beings have been assessing the health of the heart as far back as 2600 BC. An illness of the heart known as hard blood disease was treated with bleeding from leeches by figures from Hippocrates to Cornelius Celsus. Medieval Persian medical texts refer to a disease named fullness disease,a disease that has the symptoms of what we now call Hypertension.

After the discovery of blood pressure, the physician Richard Bright noted the relationship between cardiac hypertrophy and kidney disease illustrating the dangers high blood pressure can bring to parts of the body other than the heart. Frederick Akbar Mahomed reported decades later of the first example of high blood pressure without kidney disease by using asphygmograph, a mechanical device used to measure blood pressure. This led to the discovery of high blood pressure being a general circulatory disease.

The concept of Hypertension came into practice when the invention of the cuff-based sphygmomanometeroccurred in 1896 byScipione Riva Rocci, allowing blood pressure to be measured in a clinic. In 1911,Eberhard Frank coined the term Essential Hypertension, which describes 95% of hypertensive patients today.

What are the different types of Hypertension?

There are two primary types of hypertension:

Essential Hypertensionis when the cause of the hypertension is unknown. These cases make up around 95% of the people who have the condition. This type of hypertension is diagnosed when your doctor has eliminated all other types of hypertension after noticing an extended period of high blood pressure.

Secondary Hypertensionis a type of hypertension that is caused by another medical condition. It can be caused by anything fromtumours to kidney disease and many medications. This type can often be controlled once the root cause is found.

What are the signs and symptoms of Hypertension?

Hypertension rarely ever has any noticeable symptoms, a dangerous characteristic when the consequences can be so dangerous. Many who have high blood pressure feel fine but it can sometimes result in blurred vision, nosebleeds or headaches in some cases.

It is important to get your blood pressure checked at least every five years as a healthy middle aged adult. More at risk adults should get checked yearly.

What causes Hypertension?

We still don’t know what exactly causes high blood pressure in most cases but there are several factors that can increase the risk.

It is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly after 40 as your chances of hypertension increase as you age. High levels of salt, alcohol consumption and smoking can all contribute to high blood pressure as can lack of exercise and sleep deprivation. It is therefore advised to make healthy lifestyle choices so to decrease your risk.

People of African orCaribbean origin are also moresusceptible to high blood pressure and the condition tends to run in families. If your family has a history of Hypertension itelevates the chances of you contracting it yourself.

As mentioned earlier, the rarer cases of Secondary Hypertension are caused by another health condition or certain medications. The health conditions can range from kidney disease to diabetes. In some cases when medication, like the contraceptive pill, is responsible for the Hypertension, the blood pressure can return to normal once the individual stops taking it.

How can you prevent Hypertension?

Although the exact cause for Hypertension is unknown, there are several steps you can take to decrease your chances of high blood pressure. These include:

  • Exercising for at least twenty minutes each day
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet and cutting down on salt
  • Keeping to a healthy weight
  • Watching your alcohol consumption

Hypertension is not something many of us will notice so it is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly.

Stroke statistics (UK)

According to Health matters, Public Health England’s (PHEs) professional resource, in 2017:

  • In the UK, high blood pressure is the third biggest risk factor for all disease after smoking and poor diet
  • Around one in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure. In England 31% of men and 26% of women have high blood pressure
  • High blood pressure costs the NHS over £2.1 billion every year
  • Between 50-80% of people with high blood pressure do not take all of their prescribed medication
  • High blood pressure accounts for 12% of all GP appointments in England

Public Health England, Health matters: combating high blood pressure, January 2017 (references).

How does having high blood pressure affect life insurance?

Getting life insurance is something that can seem confusing and potentially frustrating, especially if you’ve got a medical condition. There’s not much help out there for people with conditions like hypertension and often it can feel unfair. In most cases where people have high blood pressure, it’s simple to get life cover though.

Here we’ll look at how high blood pressure is disclosed on a life insurance application and what it means. Life insurance is underwritten at the point of applying which means that you’ll be asked a series of medical, health and lifestyle questions. In these questions an underwriter or system will then offer you a premium based on your answers, plus your age and what your life cover requirements are.

If you’ve got high blood pressure then you’ll also be asked a set of questions that relate to hypertension. These questions will include things like:

Are you awaiting any specific tests, scans or investigations for blood pressure?

  • Have you experienced things like kidney problems, angina, heart attack, stroke, chest pain or eye problems due to hypertension?
  • Are you taking any medication prescribed by your doctor?
  • When did you first have a high blood pressure reading?
  • Have you ever stopped taking your medication without being told to do so?
  • What was the result of your last blood pressure review?
  • How many different medications do your take?

It might seem slightly unusual to have to answer so many questions but this is just part of the process. Hopefully once you’ve answered questions, you’ll be offered life insurance without needing a medical or GP report. It’s also usual to have experienced problems with getting life insurance if you’ve got a medical condition. Lots of the people we speak to have had issues in the past getting cover, but that’s where we can help.

What’s a good blood pressure reading for life insurance?

There are 2 readings that you’ll be given when you have your blood pressure taken by a GP or yourself. The number at the top of the reading is your ‘Systolic’ level and the bottom is your ‘Diastolic’ level.

The levels that are considered normal will also change or vary depending on your age, as these tend to increase as you get older. If your blood pressure is above 160/100 then you would usually be checked 3 times by your GP before being diagnosed with hypertension. If your readings are above 140/90 then it’s usually 5 times before you get fully diagnosed.

Insurers have different tolerances for blood pressure readings depending on how good they are at offering terms for hypertension. Usually we find that if you’ve got a Diastolic reading over 100 then we may need further medical evidence as a rule.

Has Coronavirus affected life insurance for people with high blood pressure?

The simple answer is the short term effects on life insurance rates for people with pre-existing medical conditions is minimal. We’re waiting to see what the long term impact is but expect that things will return to normal within a period of 6 to 12 months.

High blood pressure (hypertension) can be a sign of other problems which can cause other issues connected to COVID-19. It is suspected that there are links with cardiovascular risks as well as respiratory risks with Coronavirus.

There are now several additional questions as a result of COVID-19 which include:

  • Have you tested positive for COVID?
  • Are you self-isolating?
  • Do you currently have any symptoms of COVID?
  • Have you been in contact with anyone who has been suspected or confirmed to have Coronavirus?

As part of the complications potentially that are caused by Coronavirus which can be linked to Hypertension. You should be aware that there are certain other elements to consider as part of the potential restrictions being imposed by insurers as a result of COVID-19.

Some of the additional restrictions have included:

  • Maximum sum assured (amount of cover)
  • Underwriting limits have been reduced
  • Medical evidence restrictions for nurse screening and GP reports

Long term impacts of Coronavirus on the life insurance market for people with hypertension and other medical conditions are still unknown.

Will anything be excluded from my life insurance because of hypertension?

In almost all cases you should find that there will be no exclusions to life cover if you have a medical condition like high blood pressure. There are some more specialist products that are available which may exclude pre-existing medical conditions.

It’s very important to read your documents thoroughly to make sure that you’re fully and properly protected. If you have any doubts whatsoever then you should speak to your insurance company or contact a qualified adviser like iam|INSURED.

All of the mainstream insurers in the UK operate the same way that they would not exclude hypertension or anything related. You should instead find that the premium that you pay may reflect the fact that your cover has factored your health in. You should know that some insurance companies are better than others with pre-existing conditions and some will simply be cheaper.

Is critical illness cover available if I’ve got high blood pressure?

Critical illness cover can provide you with some cover and peace of mind if you’re diagnosed with a serious illness. Many people with medical conditions like hypertension think that this type of cover simply isn’t available which is not usually the case. In many circumstances, this type of policy is available and usually can be simply to get.

If you’ve got mild symptoms with reasonably good readings and only minimal medications or treatment then you’ll be fine to get critical illness cover. Also if you are able to reduce your blood pressure readings then you might also be able to reduce premiums.

Some of the things that can cause concerns for insurers when applying for critical illness cover with hypertension are:

  • Unstable readings
  • High readings
  • Hospitalisation
  • Time of work due to the condition
  • Multiple medications
  • Other complications or related conditions (e.g. Diabetes)

It’s important to make sure that if you are offered critical illness cover that you check your documents thoroughly. Some companies will offer terms (cover) with what is known as, an exclusion, which simply means something you’re not covered for. Exclusions will relate to your current health or any existing medical condition.

Is it possible to get income protection with hypertension?

If you’re employed or self-employed then you might want to consider taking an income protection policy. This will provide you with a monthly income if you’re not able to work because of an accident, injury or sickness. If you don’t receive any sickness pay from your employer and don’t have sufficient savings in place then you should consider this type of cover.

Anyone with a pre-existing medical condition will usually be underwritten when they apply for this policy. Hypertension is considered to be one of the more coverable conditions when it comes to income protection. Most people with well controlled blood pressure on 1 or 2 medications will be able to get this type of cover quickly and easily.

If your symptoms are slightly more severe and your readings are slightly higher then you might find getting cover more difficult. In these situations you shouldn’t be put off because there are other policies and types of cover that will help. There are some unique and exclusive policies that will offer cover and even some where there are no exclusions.

If you’ve applied for income protection in the past and you’ve got raised blood pressure then you should speak to an expert like iam|INSURED to see what can be done.

What does travel insurance cost with hypertension?

For someone who’s been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), it’s very important to make sure that you’re properly protected while travelling abroad. If you’ve got a fully comprehensive travel policy then you’ll have peace of mind that you’re covered.

Travel insurance policies will cover very basic medical expenses in most cases but with a specialised policy then you’ll get extra. You should disclose any information regarding your condition on the application to be sure.

What you’ll be covered for:

  • Lost, stolen and damaged property
  • Emergency medical treatment and repatriation
  • Cancellation and curtailment
  • Personal liability

Get the best travel cover at the right price for your own peace of mind and your protection.

What are the possible issues for someone with high blood pressure for life cover?

Even though hypertension is a common condition and usually very mild or managed with medication, there can be problems. Life insurance is underwritten based on risk at the time you apply and in the future based on statistics plus claims experience.

Some of the other areas that would be taken in to consideration when applying for life insurance with high blood pressure are:

  • High readings can be a problem if you’ve recently had levels that are well above normal acceptable levels which can vary depending on your age
  • Multiple medications is also something that will be taken in to consideration and especially if they have been changed recently
  • Recent hospitalisation will also flag to underwriters as a possible problem if there has been issues connected to this condition or other related conditions
  • Smokers are usually considered to be a potential problem with some insurers in connection to hypertension

If you’ve had problems getting cover in the past or you want more information about this then you can speak to one of iam|INSURED’s team of experts.

Hypertension awareness events

World Hypertension day is held in May to help raise awareness to people all over the globe and to educate the public about blood pressure problems

Blood Pressure Awareness week in the UK is also known as ‘know your numbers’ to help increase awareness around testing your blood pressure. Usually held in September and run by the Blood Pressure UK charity

National High Blood Pressure Education month is an American event to raise awareness around regular testing

Hypertension and Blood Pressure charities / Support (UK)

Blood Pressure UK
Helpline: 020 7882 6218
Address: Wolfson Institute of Prevention Medicine, Charterhouse Square, London, EC1M 6BQ

British Heart Foundation
Helpline: 0300 330 3311
Address: Greater London House, 180 Hampstead Road, London, NW1 7AW

Stroke UK
Helpline: 0303 3033 100
Address: 240 City Road, London, EC1V 2PR

NHS Choices (Hypertension)
Emergency: Dial 111

Daniel Sharpe-Szunko