Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America for both men and women. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease and is responsible for the deaths of 370,000 Americans each year.
What is coronary artery disease?
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by the hardening of arteries, or atherosclerosis. This means that fatty deposits called plaque buildup inside the arteries. When plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, the heart may not get the blood it needs to work well. Over time, this can weaken or damage the heart. If a plaque tears, the body tries to fix the tear by forming a blood clot around it. The clot can block blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack.
Who is at risk for coronary artery disease?
Certain traits, conditions, or habits may raise your risk for CAD. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop the disease. You can control many risk factors, which may help prevent or delay CHD.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states the following are major risk factors:
- Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels – This includes high LDL cholesterol (sometimes called “bad” cholesterol) and low HDL cholesterol (sometimes called “good” cholesterol).
- High blood pressure – Blood pressure is considered high if it stays at or above 140/90 mmHg over time. If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher.
- Smoking – Smoking can damage and tighten blood vessels, lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels, and raise blood pressure. Smoking also can limit how much oxygen reaches the body’s tissues.
- Insulin resistance – This condition occurs if the body can’t use its own insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells where it’s used for energy. Insulin resistance may lead to diabetes.
- Diabetes – With this disease, the body’s blood sugar level is too high because the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use its insulin properly.
- Overweight or obesity – The terms “overweight” and “obesity” refer to body weight that’s greater than what is considered healthy for a certain height.
- Metabolic syndrome – Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for CAD and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.
- Lack of physical activity – Being physically inactive can worsen other risk factors for CAD, such as unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, and overweight or obesity.
- Unhealthy diet – An unhealthy diet can raise your risk for CAD. Foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar can worsen other risk factors for CAD.
- Older age – Genetic or lifestyle factors cause plaque to build up in your arteries as you age. In men, the risk for coronary artery disease increases starting at age 45. In women, the risk increases starting at age 55.
- Family history – A family history of early coronary artery disease is a risk factor, specifically if a father or brother is diagnosed before age 55, or a mother or sister is diagnosed before age 65.
The following are additional conditions and factors that may also contribute to CAD:
- Sleep apnea – Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and even a heart attack or stroke.
- Stress – Research shows that the most commonly reported “trigger” for a heart attack is an emotionally upsetting event especially one involving anger.
- Alcohol – Heavy drinking can damage the heart muscle and worsen other CAD risk factors. Men should have no more than two drinks containing alcohol a day. Women should have no more than one drink containing alcohol a day.
- Preeclampsia – This condition can occur during pregnancy. The two main signs of preeclampsia are a rise in blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. Preeclampsia is linked to an increased lifetime risk of heart disease, including CAD, heart attack, heart failure, and high blood pressure.
What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?
The most common symptoms of CAD include:
- Angina (chest pain or discomfort)
- Shortness of breath
- Heart attack
Less common symptoms include a fast heartbeat, feeling sick to your stomach, and increased sweating. Some people don’t have any symptoms. In rare cases, a person can have a “silent” heart attack, without symptoms.
How is coronary artery disease treated?
Treatment focuses on lowering your risk for heart attack and stroke and managing your symptoms. Lifestyle changes, medicine, and procedures are used.
- Lifestyle changes include quitting smoking (if you smoke), eating heart-healthy foods, getting regular exercise, staying at a healthy weight, lowering your stress level, and limiting how much alcohol you drink. A cardiac rehab program can help you make these changes.
- Medicines can help you lower high cholesterol and high blood pressure, manage angina, and lower your risk of having a blood clot.
- Procedures that improve blood flow to the heart include angioplasty and bypass surgery.
Can I get life insurance if I have a history of coronary artery disease?
Having a history of CAD is not a hard-set yes or no as to whether or not you can qualify for life insurance coverage. Underwriting coronary artery disease (CAD) risk requires detailed analysis of the extent of the disease.
Disease severity is assessed by multiple factors, including:
- Plaque burden by catheterization
- Number of events and stability
- Systolic LV function
- Diastolic LV function
- Exercise tolerance
- Current symptoms or abnormal stress testing (with or without scan or echo)
- Other vascular disease
Believe it or not, your gender will also come into play. Coronary artery disease in women differs from men in many ways. These differences occur in risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment outcomes. Below are some gender-based factors that underwriters take into consideration:
- Silent myocardial ischemia (angina) and silent myocardial infarctions (MIs) are more common in women.
- The rate of early death after MI is higher among women than men. Mortality within the first year after symptomatic MI is 45% in women and 10% in men.
- Women who undergo bypass surgery have more cardiomegaly and have more frequent and more severe mitral regurgitation. Thus, they are typically sicker than men at the time of surgery.
- Angiography shows that women have smaller caliber coronary arteries, but have a higher prevalence of single-vessel CAD.
A benefit to working with Quotacy is that we work with multiple A-rated life insurance companies. We have the ability to shop cases around to different companies to try our best to get an applicant approved.
Our in-house underwriter has worked in many carrier home offices, knows how to navigate each individual’s health history, and knows which life insurance company would be the best option for your individual case. If you are ready to buy life insurance coverage, get a term life insurance quote now and let’s start the process.
If you have any questions regarding underwriting coronary artery disease, feel free to contact us or jot us a message in the Comment section below. If you are looking to get an idea on the cost of life insurance if you have a history of coronary artery disease, we will need the following information to provide you with an accurate quote.
- What was the date of your CAD diagnosis?
- Have you had any of the following and if so please give the dates:
- Heart attack
- Coronary angioplasty
- Heart failure
- Valve surgery
- Are you on any medication, including aspirin? If yes, please give details.
- Have you had a stress (exercise) ECG done? If yes, please give details.
- Have you had any chest discomfort since treatment? If yes, please give details.
- Do you have a history with any of the following:
- Abnormal lipid levels
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Elevated homocysteine
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Cerebrovascular or carotid disease
- Have you smoked cigarettes in the last 12 months?
- Do you have any other major health problems, such as cancer? If yes, please give details.
Give us 2-3 business days to respond with some individualized and thorough information. Quotacy is here to help make the life insurance buying process easier for you.