Did you know that March is National Kidney Month?  Your kidneys are pretty important.  They are the body’s blood filtration system.  Kidneys filter your blood, help regulate blood pressure, and direct red blood cell productions.  Unfortunately, these organs are also prone to disease.  It’s important to keep them in check.

What should I know about my kidneys?

The kidneys are two bean-shaped, fist-sized organs found on the left and right sides of the body in your lower back.  According to Kidney.org, they maintain overall health through the following functions:

  • Filtering waste out of 200 liters of blood each day.
  • Regulating of the body’s salt, potassium and acid content.
  • Removing of drugs from the body.
  • Balancing the body’s fluids.
  • Releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure.
  • Producing an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones.
  • Controlling the production of red blood cells.

Some quick facts about kidney disease:

  • 1 in 3 Americans is at risk for kidney disease.
  • More than 26 million Americans have kidney disease, and most don’t even know it.
  • Kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • There are over 95,000 people waiting for kidney transplants.
  • More than 590,000 people have kidney failure in the U.S. today.

Am I at risk for kidney disease?

Early kidney disease has no signs or symptoms.  According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), you are at risk for kidney disease if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • A family history of kidney failure

If you have any of these risk factors, get tested for kidney disease.  There are two tests used to check for kidney disease: a blood test and a urine test.  The blood test checks your GFR, which tells how well your kidneys are filtering.  The urine test checks for albumin in your urine.  Albumin is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.

On World Kidney Day, which is March 9th 2017, and throughout the month of March, the National Kidney Foundation is offering free screenings to those most at risk for kidney disease.  Check out their calendar to see if there is a free screening location near you.  You can always request an appointment for a kidney screen test with your health care provider as well.

How can I keep my kidneys healthy?

Your kidneys do a lot of work for your body – give them some love in return.  Here are some general tips from the NIDDK to help keep your kidneys healthy:

  • Keep your blood pressure at the target set by your health care provider.  For most people, the blood pressure target is less than 140/90 mm Hg.  This can delay or prevent kidney failure.
  • If you have diabetes, control your blood glucose level.
  • Keep your cholesterol levels in the target range.
  • Take medicines the way your provider tells you to.  (Certain blood pressure medicines called ACE inhibitors and ARBs may protect your kidneys.  Ask your health care provider for more information.)
  • Cut back on salt.  Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day.
  • Choose foods that are healthy for your heart: fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Be more physically active.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • If you smoke, take steps to quit.  Cigarette smoking can make kidney damage worse.

If I have kidney disease, can I get life insurance?

There is not an easy yes or no answer to this question because there are many different health issues that can cause kidney disease.  The severity and cause behind the kidney disease will affect how life insurance underwriters classify an applicant.  The following issues are some of the most common causes of kidney disease:

  1. Diabetes
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Glomerulonephritis
  4. Polycystic kidney disease

Diabetes

With diabetes, the small blood vessels in the body are injured.  When the blood vessels in the kidneys are injured, your kidneys cannot clean your blood properly.  According to Kidney.org, about 30 percent of patients with Type 1 (juvenile onset) diabetes and 10 to 40 percent of those with Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes eventually will suffer from kidney failure.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, reducing their ability to work properly.  When the force of blood flow is high, blood vessels stretch so blood flows more easily.  Eventually, this stretching scars and weakens blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the kidneys.

If the kidneys’ blood vessels are damaged, they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from the body.  Extra fluid in the blood vessels may then raise blood pressure even more, creating a dangerous cycle.  High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure in the United States after diabetes.

Glomerulonephritis

Glomerulonephritis (GN) is an inflammatory disease of the glomeruli (filtering unit) of the kidney.  One can have acute GN or chronic GN.  Those with acute GN typically recover completely while chronic GN may slowly progress towards kidney failure.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) causes numerous cysts to grow in the kidneys.  These cysts are filled with fluid.  If too many cysts grow or if they get too big, the kidneys can become damaged.  It is one of the most common hereditary diseases in the United States, affecting more than 600,000 people.  PKD is also the cause of nearly 10% of all cases of end-stage kidney disease.

Applying for Life Insurance with Kidney Disease

If you have kidney disease and apply for life insurance, your kidney function test results will help to determine if you can be approved for coverage and what risk class you would be assigned.  If the tests show evidence of a progressive decline in kidney function, applicant would likely be an automatic decline.

There are cases in which you can still be approved for life insurance even if you have kidney disease.  With acute kidney disease, underwriters will look at your application favorably if you are managing the underlying cause well and have good physician follow-up.  With chronic kidney disease, the stage you are in (Stage 1 has best outcomes and Stage 5 is end stage) and your treatment plan will be evaluated closely.  Applicants currently going through dialysis treatment are generally not insurable.  If you have received a kidney transplant, life insurance companies will typically want you to wait one year before applying so chances of organ rejection and complications are minimal.

With most kidney disease and transplant applicants, substandard ratings are likely.  What this means is that your application does not fall within the life insurance company’s normal range of accepted risk and you will be required to pay extra to offset the risk the insurance company is taking by insuring you.  So, instead of being classified something like “Preferred Plus” or “Standard” you will receive a table rating.  Depending on the insurance carrier, an alphabetical or numerical table is used.  See the table below for reference.

 

Table Rating
(alphabetical)
Table Rating
(numerical)
Pricing
A 1 Standard + 25%
B 2 Standard + 50%
C 3 Standard + 75%
D 4 Standard + 100%
E 5 Standard + 125%
F 6 Standard + 150%
G 7 Standard + 175%
H 8 Standard + 200%
I 9 Standard + 225%
J 10 Standard + 250%

 

In our many years of experience, we have worked with many individuals whom have kidney disease – this isn’t a rare condition.  We work with multiple life insurance companies and they all underwrite a little differently and have different “rules” in regards as to how they evaluate applicants with kidney disease.  Your Quotacy team will work hard to get you approved for coverage.  If you are interested in buying life insurance, you can start by exploring your product and pricing options.  Running a term quote on our website is easy and you see estimated prices instantly – no contact information required.

 

Related Posts:

Ask an Underwriter: Hypertension

Ask an Underwriter: Diabetes

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