People with diabetes are affected in many aspects of their lives, including their ability to get life insurance.
This guide explains how having diabetes can affect the ability to get life insurance, as well as the cost of it, and what people with diabetes can do to minimise the impact.
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Diabetes is a group of diseases that restrict the body’s ability to produce the correct level of insulin to manage blood sugar levels. There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, and there are many distinctions between them.
With type 1 diabetes, your body attacks the cells in your pancreas stopping it from producing any insulin. Insulin is a vital hormone that controls the sugar (glucose) levels in your blood.
When you have type 1 diabetes, your body breaks down the carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose just like everyone else, but there’s no insulin to allow it into your body’s cells. Without insulin, the glucose levels build up instead of being used as energy.
The causes of type 1 diabetes are unknown and it can be diagnosed as early as childhood. According to Diabetes UK, about 8% of people with diabetes have type 1.
Everyone with type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin. Some people inject it and others use a pump. You need to monitor your blood sugar levels and count the carbs in your food to calculate how much insulin to take with each meal. And your blood sugar levels can also drop so you may need to eat something sweet or take glucose supplements.
Because type 1 diabetes often occurs so early and is a result of the pancreas failing to produce insulin, it's not usually linked to having excess body weight or high levels of cholesterol. However healthy eating and plenty of exercise can help keep symptoms manageable.
Type 2 diabetes is also a serious condition. With type 2 diabetes either of these happen:
your pancreas can’t make enough insulin
the insulin your pancreas produces can’t work properly
Both mean your blood glucose (sugar) levels keep rising. If your insulin isn’t working your blood sugar levels keep rising so more insulin is released, which can eventually tire the pancreas out.
Meanwhile, type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed later on in life and unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 is usually associated with having excess body weight in combination with high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol levels. A growing number of children are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
There's also a combination of other factors that could be involved, such as genes or miscommunication between the cells in your body.
According to Diabetes UK around 90% of people with diabetes have type 2. It is a serious condition and can be lifelong. Without treatment high sugar levels in your blood can seriously damage parts of your body, including your eyes, heart and feet.
People with type 2 diabetes are given medication to help control the disease and improve the use of insulin and are encouraged to eat more healthily, exercise more and lose weight. Some may be given insulin injections too.
In some cases, people with type 2 diabetes are able to ease off the use of medication, if they are able to follow a strict and controlled diet as advised by their doctor.
Diabetes UK lists the following factors as increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes:
Age. You’re more at risk if you’re white and over 40, or over 25 if you’re African Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian (Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi)
If you are living with obesity or are overweight
If your waist size is too large
Ethnicity. You're more at risk if you're of African Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian (Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi) or Chinese descent
Family history. For example, if you have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes
Medical history. For example if you have a history of high blood pressure, heart attack or strokes, gestational diabetes or severe mental illness
Note: In addition to type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which between them cover 98% of those with diabetes in the UK, Diabetes UK lists several other forms of the disease.
Despite the disease being life-long and life threatening, diabetes sufferers have been able to lead long and healthy lives. However, if the condition is not controlled strictly and carefully, the consequences can be hugely detrimental to the sufferer’s quality of life and health.
For instance, the build up of glucose in the blood, when not controlled, can have a lasting impact on the sufferer's blood flow and circulation. The repercussions of this could result in seemingly minor injuries to the hands and feet not healing fully. In worse cases, those injuries could turn septic or gangrenous, and possibly result in amputation.
The problems resulting from poor blood circulation and other aspects of diabetes, when not controlled properly, can also lead to kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and eye disease.
People with diabetes are considered by life insurance companies to be a higher risk than those without diabetes. However, comparing life insurance from a wide variety of companies can help improve the chances of someone with diabetes finding a policy that's right for them, and one that is still fairly priced.
It's not all that uncommon to be asked to undergo a medical in order to be approved for a life insurance policy, and if you suffer from diabetes your insurer may require a medical before agreeing to cover you.
Some insurers may not even be willing to offer life insurance for diabetics, so comparing as much as the market as possible is highly recommended.
The best way to find an affordable life insurance policy with a history of medical issues is to talk to a professional who will take your unique needs into account.
If you’d like to discuss your options with a life insurance expert, call our partners ActiveQuote on 0800 862 0017.
Prepare recent blood sugar level readings
Ask your doctor to provide an assessment of your condition currently
Send over any previous medical reports
List the ways you control your diabetes (e.g. regular exercise, meal plans)
Provide correct and accurate information about yourself and your condition
Compare policies from a wide range of insurers
The insurers that do cover people with diabetes will often need to know how exactly you control your condition. If you suffer from diabetes and are looking for life insurance, you should have evidence of your treatments, doctors' advice and anything else that could determine how healthy you are.
It's also important to research the requirements of the life insurance policy application before you submit it. If you might not be eligible for a specific policy, consider not applying, as almost all life insurance policies for people with diabetes will ask you if you have been turned down for cover before. If your answer to this question is 'yes', then it will be harder to get life insurance next time you apply.
Like with any other life insurance policy, it's important to be truthful in your application. Insurers are still going to be worried about other risks to your health, not just the diabetes.
If you are a smoker, then your chances of getting a cheap life insurance policy will be reduced. If you lie about your condition or your lifestyle habits. Such as how often you drink alcohol, and then a claim has to be made, the insurers will check if any of these factors contributed to your death. If so, the intended payout could be reduced or revoked completely.
If you already have a life insurance policy, but have since been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, then your policy should still apply. However, if you need to renew your policy (in the case of term life insurance) you will need to declare your new condition, which is likely to result in higher premiums.
Check your policy terms to ensure that in the event you develop any new condition, such as type 2 diabetes, you will still be covered. However, it is more likely that your pre-existing life insurance policy will cover it.
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