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What is a life insurance medical exam and how do I prepare for it?

Do you prefer to learn by watching? We answer this question in a video below. Click here to jump ahead.

When you buy life insurance, one step in the process—most of the time—is to get a medical exam. Your medical exam results help underwriters at the life insurance company determine their risk when they insure you. Your risk class then determines how much you end up paying for your coverage.

To help you get the best outcome possible, we have 12 tips to share if you’re getting your medical exam done soon.

12 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

1. Schedule your life insurance medical exam to take place early in the morning

Even a piece of fruit can affect your blood pressure reading, so you should fast six to eight hours before an exam. Scheduling your life insurance medical exam early in the morning makes this task much easier so you’re not starving all day.

2. Don’t drink coffee or smoke beforehand

Skip your morning cup of coffee and cigarette because the caffeine and nicotine may elevate your blood pressure readings that could put you in a higher price (rate class) group.

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3. Avoid eating 12 hours prior

Fasting will help you obtain the best lab results. In addition, salty and fatty foods affect your cholesterol and blood pressure so avoid these a week before your exam, if possible. If a week is too much to ask, at least shoot for eliminating fatty and salty foods 24 hours prior to your medical exam. Every little bit helps!

4. Drink lots of water

You want your exam to be done as quickly as possible right? Staying hydrated will make it easier to give blood and pee in that fancy, little cup.

5. Don’t drink alcohol for 24 hours prior

Avoid drinking alcohol the day of your exam. Alcohol dehydrates you which makes it hard to draw blood.

6. Don’t smoke marijuana for 30 days prior

Don’t smoke marijuana up to 30 days before your life insurance medical exam. Even if you admit on your application to using marijuana and live in a state where it’s legal, testing positive for THC can negatively affect your underwriting class since some life insurance companies will consider you a smoker and you’ll pay higher rates.

If you do use marijuana, be honest on your application. If you say you don’t use, but then it’s discovered through your exam or medical records that you lied on your application, your coverage may be denied.

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7. Avoid use of OTC medications and nasal decongestants for 24 hours prior

Nasal decongestants and over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines and ibuprofen, can increase blood pressure.

Avoid cold medicines as they can trigger a false positive for opiate use.

8. Prepare a list of any medications you are taking

Speaking of drugs, as mentioned already, the life insurance physical examiner will ask about your medical history so have a list available of any medications you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins and supplements. Anything you can have prepared beforehand will make your medical exam go quicker.

9. Avoid working out

Finally a time when we should avoid the gym! Exercise can raise your blood pressure and pulse rate. You can go on your evening walk, but avoid strenuous cardio the night before and the morning of your exam.

10. Don’t schedule the exam during a menstrual period

Ladies, do not have your medical exam during your period, if possible. It can contaminate your urine sample and you would then have to schedule a redo. If this comes up after you’ve scheduled the exam, don’t worry. It happens. Simply contact your agent (or the medical exam company) and ask to re-schedule for a later date. This will save you and your physical examiner the hassle of having to do it a second time.

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11. Get plenty of sleep

When you are well-rested, your blood pressure is lower. Sleep also helps offset anxiety and fear. All these factors lead to better test results and potentially a lower rate class (price) for your life insurance policy.

12. Fear of blood or needles? Tell your medical examiner.

If you are anxious about what may happen during your medical exam, talk to your examiner and explain your concerns. They may note your fears in your file, and should your nervousness lead to unusually high blood pressure results, these notes may be taken into consideration by the insurance company underwriter.

We want you to get the best life insurance rates possible and leading a healthy life is the best way to do it.

Don’t wait to apply for life insurance. The older you get, the more expensive your premium payments will be and your loved ones will be unprotected.

Learn more about term insurance and rates today with Quotacy’s helpful FAQs.

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Watch the Life Insurance Medical Exam Video

Video Transcript

Welcome to Quotacy’s Q&A Friday where we answer your life insurance questions. Quotacy is an online life insurance agency where you can get life insurance on your terms.

I’m Jeanna and I’m Natasha.

Today’s question is:
What is a life insurance medical exam and how do I prepare for it?

The medical exam is part of the traditional life insurance buying process. The exam helps the life insurance company’s underwriters determine the final price of your policy. Most people that apply for life insurance will need to take a medical exam. The medical exam is done by a third party representative and this can happen at your home or office wherever is most convenient for you.

The Medical Exam

  • Blood draw
  • Urine sample
  • Blood pressure reading
  • Height and weight
  • Medical history review

The medical exam usually lasts around 20 to 30 minutes and the exam includes a blood draw, urine sample, blood pressure reading, height and weight measurements, and a review of your medical history. To get the best possible results on your medical exam Natasha and I have some tips to consider.

Tip number one: Try to fast at least ten hours prior to your medical exam.

This will help to ensure your blood pressure and blood sugar levels are not elevated.

Tip number two: don’t drink coffee or alcohol before your exam.

Coffee can also elevate your blood readings and alcohol can dehydrate you making it harder to draw blood.

Tip number three: don’t smoke prior to your exam and this includes cigarettes and marijuana.

The nicotine in the cigarettes can elevate your blood pressure. And in regards to marijuana, it’s best to avoid it at least three weeks prior to your exam. If the insurance companies detect marijuana in the exam results, they may put you in the tobacco risk class which means you’re paying higher premium amounts like a cigarette smoker would.

Tip number four: drink lots of water.

You want this exam to go as fast as possible, right? Staying hydrated will make it easier to draw blood and pee in that fancy little cup.

Tip number five: avoid salty and fatty foods at least 24 hours prior to your exam.

These foods can negatively affect your cholesterol and blood pressure readings.

Tip number six: prepare a list of medications you’re taking.

The examiner is going to ask you about your medical history so having a list of any prescriptions or over the counter medications you’re taking is very helpful.

Tip number seven: don’t schedule the exam during your menstrual cycle.

Ladies, if possible, plan ahead and schedule the exam around your period. It can contaminate your urine sample, which might cause you to have to take a second medical exam.

Tip number eight: avoid working out.

Exercise can raise your pulse rate and your blood pressure. So, you can go ahead and go for your evening walk, but avoid any strenuous activity the evening before or morning of your exam.

Tip number nine: get plenty of sleep.

When you are well rested your blood pressure is lower. And it also helps off-set anxiety and fear. All of these factors lead to better test results and a potentially lower price for your life insurance policy.

And finally tip number ten: write down your examiner’s phone number when you schedule your appointment.

It’s much easier to contact them directly if you need to reschedule rather than going through the insurance company or agency. We hope these tips help you have a smooth life insurance medical exam experience.

If you have any questions about life insurance make sure to leave us a comment. Otherwise, tune in next week when we talk about how to buy life insurance on your significant other. Bye!


About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius, CLU

Senior Editor and Life Insurance Expert

Natasha Cornelius, CLU, is a writer, editor, and life insurance researcher for Quotacy.com where her goal is to make life insurance more transparent and easier to understand. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been writing about life insurance since 2014. Natasha earned her Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 2022. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. Connect with her on LinkedIn.