Life Insurance Blood Test: What Are They Looking For?

If you’ve applied for a life insurance policy, chances are you will need to take a medical exam to confirm your current state of health. Part of this exam includes a blood test, but what does the blood test used for? We have your guide to the life insurance blood test.
By Beth W.
Updated Sep 4, 2022
life insurance blood test
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Life insurance is an important financial tool for most consumers. A good policy will allow your beneficiaries to meet their financial obligations after you are gone. You will also benefit by knowing that your loved ones will not struggle. Peace of mind is an important part of a healthy life.

If you’ve applied for a life insurance policy, chances are you will need to take a medical exam to confirm your current state of health. Carriers use various tests and information to determine how much they risk financially by insuring your life. The better your health, the lower the risk to the insurer and the lower the annual premium you will pay for coverage.

Before buying life insurance, you need to understand the medical exam process, including what the life insurance company is looking for, how to prepare for the exam, and what to do if you’re denied coverage after an exam. 

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What To Expect in the Life Insurance Medical Exam

Once you’ve completed the application for life insurance, the insurer will schedule your exam and send a medical examiner to your home, place of work, or an approved medical facility to conduct the exam at a date and time of your choosing.

These exams are much the same as your yearly physical. The entire life insurance medical exam should last around 20 to 30 minutes and includes an interview, blood draw, urine sample, height and weight measurements, and blood pressure and pulse measurement.

At the start of the exam, they will ask you to confirm your identity and provide a current driver’s license or passport. The medical professional will then ask you a list of standard questions.

Insurers design these interview questions to confirm the answers on your application and give them a clear picture of your overall medical history. 

Here are some examples of the medical exam questions:

  • Do you smoke? If so, how many cigarettes or cigars do you smoke in an average week? Month?

  • Do you drink? If so, how many drinks in an average week? Month?

  • Any family medical history of major illnesses including heart disease, mental illness, stroke, kidney issues, or cancer?

  • Do you take any prescription medication? Which ones?

  • Are you pregnant?

  • Any history of illegal drug use?

  • Do you exercise? If so, how much?

In all cases, be truthful in your answers.

The Consequences of Lying

You should be completely honest in answering these questions. Lying on the application or in the interview has serious consequences. Depending on the severity of the lie, you can be denied coverage.

While the insurer collects your information in the original application process, insurers use the medical tests to confirm the responses you shared during this interview.

If you are originally approved for a policy, but the company discovers the deceit later, such as when you die, the life insurance company can deny the policy death benefit.

Confirmation Of Application Responses

During the underwriting process, an insurance company will conduct a thorough investigation to check your responses match data from the Medical Information Bureau, prescription database and DMV records.

If the experts determine you were lying, they can also enter that information on the Management Information Base (MIB) so that no other company will issue life insurance to you. Lying in this situation is common but can really cost you.

A stethoscope used to check heart beats.

What Life Insurance Blood Tests Are Testing For

Every life insurance medical exam includes a blood test that reveals key information about the state of your health. The medical examiner will draw blood and have it tested for the following: 

  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases including HIV and AIDS

  • Hemoglobin AIC and blood glucose levels

  • Creatinine, hemoglobin, and protein levels to identify kidney disease

  • Cholesterol - including LDL, HDL, and triglycerides to screen for heart disease


Your cholesterol level is extremely important to insurance carriers as it’s a measure of overall heart and vascular health. While it’s true that high cholesterol is bad and low cholesterol is good, you need to understand two particular types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL.

  • High-Density Lipoproteins, or HDLs: Considered good cholesterol and are found in fruits, grains, nuts, oils, and fish. 

  • Low-Density Lipoproteins, or LDLs: Considered bad cholesterol and are found in red meat, dairy, fried, and processed food that can clog arteries and lead to high blood pressure.

The negative effects of LDLs, such as clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and stroke, can be offset by the presence of HDLs. The ratio of HDL to LDL in your blood is a common life insurance test, as is cholesterol to HDL, as it can warn of future heart disease.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

This test measures the number of white and red blood cells in your blood. Too many or too few white or red blood cells can indicate potential health problems, including blood cancer. Should your CBC be outside the normal range, the insurer may have some additional questions for you. You should immediately discuss any troubling results with your physician. 

Other Blood Tests

Life insurance companies look at your blood test results for other indications, including triglycerides since high levels can lead to serious health issues like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, and liver disease.

They will also look at your hemoglobin level since this iron-containing protein is necessary for good overall health. Low levels of hemoglobin can cause anemia, while high hemoglobin levels can also be a dangerous signal.  

Blood testing can also identify tumor markers that can be found in the bloodstream and indicate the presence of some cancers.

The presence of these health conditions in your standard life insurance physical can lead to being classified in a higher risk class which can mean more expensive premiums or denied life insurance eligibility.

Height and Weight

The medical professional conducting your exam will measure your height and weight. This information combined with your gender determines your total body mass index or BMI, which is a measure of your body’s fat, muscle, and bone. This score is used to determine if you are the proper weight for your height.

Each insurance carrier sets its own BMI guidelines and the acceptable ranges for men and women, which you can find in the company’s height and weight chart. Where you fall on the chart helps determine your life insurance premium.

The ratings include preferred best, preferred, standard plus, and standard rates - the highest in terms of cost.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure does not always present symptoms, which is why a health practitioner takes it at every doctor’s appointment. It’s also why blood pressure is part of a standard life insurance physical. High blood pressure can contribute to heart disease, stroke, eye problems, or chronic kidney disease.

Left untreated or uncontrolled, high blood pressure will continue to damage arteries and blood vessels and possibly result in a heart attack or stroke. Potential insurers need this information to make an informed decision about your policy.

Blood Pressure EKG

The company may require you to have an electrocardiogram (EKG) when applying for life insurance coverage, especially if you are over the age of 50.

For this test, you will need to lie down while the examiner places several electrodes on and around your chest. These electrodes are hooked up to the EKG machine where your heartbeat is recorded.

The rate and rhythm of your heartbeat can identify several health issues including potential heart damage, irregular heartbeat, clogged or blocked arteries, and heart failure. 

Preparing for a Life Insurance Blood Test and Medical Exam

The preparation for the exam begins the night before when you will need to fast (no food or drink other than water) for eight to twelve hours.

You should get a good night’s sleep and drink plenty of water as this clears your system of toxins, which can skew your results.

Certain factors can negatively impact a life insurance blood test exam and should be avoided leading up to your exam:

  • Alcohol - These beverages can negatively affect your blood sugar and fat levels.

  • Coffee - Even a cup can affect your digestion and skew the results of your blood test. 

  • Smoking/Tobacco Use - Smoking can also have a negative impact on your test.

  • Chewing Gum - Even sugar-free chewing gum can speed up your digestion and make your blood test inaccurate.

  • Exercise - This usually healthy activity before an exam can affect your digestion as well as elevate your blood pressure, or present excess proteins in a urine sample. 

  • Poppy Seeds - Poppy seeds can cause a false positive for opiates

  • Cold Medicines - Cold remedies and decongestants, or sleeping pills can cause false positives for barbiturates or amphetamines

A person signing up for life insurance.

What To Expect From A Urine Test For Life Insurance

During the exam, you will be provided a sterile container to collect a urine sample. Depending on the life insurance company and their security policy, they may ask you to empty your pockets before entering the restroom, or the medical examiner may do a visual inspection of the restroom prior to you entering. An ounce or two of urine is all you need to provide before returning the container to the examiner.

The examiner will seal and label the sample and send it to the lab where it will be tested for abnormal levels of sugars, proteins, acidity, and concentration that can point to diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease.

If glucose is present in the urine, it can be a symptom of diabetes, and of potential pregnancy in women. Too much protein can be a sign of possible kidney disease.

The urine test also detects nicotine and drug use. In fact, it is the most common test for marijuana use and opioids like heroin, codeine, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

A Positive Marijuana Test On A Life Insurance Exam

Some life insurance policies allow for occasional marijuana use, so a positive test doesn’t mean you’ll be denied coverage. Instead, you will probably have to pay higher rates just as tobacco users do.

Be sure to disclose your cannabis use during the application process and make sure it’s acceptable to the carrier.

What If You’re Approved for Life Insurance but the Premiums are Too Expensive?

Companies may approve you for life insurance even if you aren’t in perfect health, but you will pay a higher premium rate.

If you find yourself in this situation, there are ways to lower your rate over time, including taking part in any wellness program provided by insurance carriers. These programs reward you for healthy living with discounts on premiums. So getting more exercise, reducing stress, quitting smoking, and using weight-loss programs can all benefit your health and save you money

A recent hospital visit does not always disqualify you from life insurance coverage, but, again, you could pay more for coverage. Many life insurance carriers require a certain amount of time to pass after a hospital visit to qualify for their best rates. This provision is to ensure that you aren’t dealing with a serious or chronic ailment. You can either wait and reapply after the period has ended, which the companies will disclose, or accept the high premium so you have coverage and then replace the policy once the period has passed.  

What to do if You’re Denied Life Insurance Coverage

Should life insurance carriers deny you insurance because of a health issue, you do have some options to help secure coverage. 

First, request a copy of the complete medical report from the life insurance company so you can understand the issues that led to the denial and what you can do about them These reports are detailed, and the life insurance company has clear standards for a denial.

From the report, determine the health concerns you need to address. Maybe you need to lose weight or lower your blood pressure before the company will offer you coverage.  

Many employers offer life insurance to certain employees as a part of their compensation package. Should an outside carrier deny you coverage, you may be able to increase the amount of your work-sponsored coverage without a medical exam. Speak with your human resources team to see if this is an option for you.

Finally, if you’ve chosen to work directly with a particular life insurance carrier and have been denied coverage, you will benefit from working with PolicyScout. We can help you find carriers and policies that will work for you and your personal situation.

Final Thoughts

Get ready before you take a life insurance medical exam. You now know what to expect, how to prepare, what to avoid, and what to do afterward.

If you’re new to life insurance and need some guidance on the policies that will work for you and your family, please visit our Life Insurance Hub and let us help you find the right carrier and insurance to give you the protection you need and deserve.