Strokes are one of the most common critical illnesses, with more than 400,000 Canadians living with the effects of stroke as of 2017. Whether you’re at risk of having a stroke, or have had one in the past, it’s important to know what to expect from insurers when you’re applying for life insurance.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to any portion of the brain has been obstructed or blocked, which deprives brain cells of oxygen and nutrients and causes those brain cells to die. The brain controls many functions, so when parts of the brain die, the results can be permanent or deadly. The same blood flow problems can occur without causing this permanent damage, and is known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini stroke.
There are three types of strokes that refer to how the blood blow was obstructed: ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, and atherosclerosis stroke. Ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots in an artery, and hemorrhagic strokes are caused when a blood vessel ruptures and blood accumulates in the tissue around the rupture. Atherosclerosis strokes are caused by fat and cholesterol buildup that narrows arteries in the brain. When any of these types of stroke occurs and causes permanent damage, it is known as a full stroke, or Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA).
Strokes can happen to someone at any age, however it is much more common in people over the age of 60. At younger ages, strokes can be attributed to stressful/hectic lifestyles, childhood obesity that carries into adulthood. Other factors that can contribute to strokes are heart problems, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as excessive drinking and smoking.
You’re more at risk of stroke if you:
- Are age 55 or older
- Have a family history of stroke
- Have High Blood Pressure or Cholesterol
- Have Diabetes
- Smoke or have smoked cigarettes or other tobacco products
- Have a form of artery or Heart Disease
- Are obese
There are several early signs of stroke, including:
- Slurred speech
- Paralysis in the face, leg or arm
- Sudden vision problems
- A loss of balance
If you see or are experiencing any of these signs, you should get treated immediately to reduce any damage or complications from after a stroke.
Common complications from strokes include:
- Paralysis of one side of the body
- Speech/language impairments
- Vision problems
- Slow, cautious behavior
- Quick, inquisitive behavior
- Memory loss
Some stroke survivors may also suffer from seizures, muscle stiffness, and chronic fatigue.
Can you get life insurance after a stroke?
Although it will be more difficult to get approved for life insurance after having a stroke, it is still possible. Strokes are considered a serious medical event with several health impairments due to complications, so underwriters will be more careful during the underwriting process. As a result, your options for traditional life insurance will be more limited the more recent your stroke is, and if you had a full stroke. If you had a mini stroke (TIA), you’ll be able to get coverage sooner than if you had a full stroke.
No medical life insurance or guaranteed life insurance are two options for life insurance if you are looking for coverage soon after you’ve had a stroke, because they don’t require any medical exams or questions. These life insurance products are designed to provide quick coverage for those who have difficulty getting approved for regular insurance for any reason, including health conditions such as a stroke. Note that these products may have a deferred policy, where if the insured dies in the first 24 months of a policy, the full death benefit will not be paid out.
If you’re looking for life insurance 2-3 years after your stroke, simplified life insurance is an option as well. Many simplified issue carriers such as Canada Protection Plan offer immediate coverage to stroke victims after two or three years. Note that looking at simplified issue options before applying for traditional life insurance will prevent you from being disqualified for a simplified issue plan, in the case that you are declined from traditional insurance first.
How important is the length of time since my stroke when applying for life insurance?
As mentioned, the time since your stroke is an important factor insurers consider when reviewing your application. This is because 1 in 4 stroke survivors will have another stroke sometime in their lifetime, and the chances of a second stroke happening in the first year is 15 times greater. Some insurers will decline you if you’ve had a stroke within the past year (12 months), and many will only accept stroke survivors after 2-3 years.
How do life insurance companies view your stroke?
Along with the time it’s been since your last stroke, the number of strokes you’ve had will also impact your ability to be approved for life insurance. Some insurers will decline you if you’ve had multiple strokes. Additionally, the younger you are as a stroke survivor, the more expensive your premiums will be. The type of stroke you had will also make a difference in your premiums: you will have higher premiums if you had a full stroke (CVA) compared to a mini stroke (TIA).
Other questions insurers will ask often about regarding your stroke are:
- What studies were done? (EKG, MRI, CT Scan, Carotid Ultrasound, etc)
- Describe symptoms at the time of stroke
- For CVA strokes, was it an ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, or atherosclerosis stroke?
- Did symptoms linger after the stroke? Which ones?
- Any family history of strokes?
- Medications you are taking
- Any diagnosis of hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease (CVD), or peripheral vascular disease (PVD)?
- Previous or current tobacco usage
What should I consider if I’m at risk of a stroke?
If you have a history of strokes in your family, or you fall into one of the categories that makes you at risk of a stroke, there are several life insurance options for you. Critical Illness insurance provides support for you when you are diagnosed with a critical illness while you are insured, meaning if you have not experienced a stroke yet but are worried that you might in the future, this insurance will still provide a benefit. Many term life insurance and permanent life insurance products from several carriers offer critical illness riders to their products to help further secure you as well, if critical illness insurance is not your main priority for insurance.
Get the protection you need
Whether you’re at risk of stroke, or have experienced a stroke in the past, there’s a life insurance product or package for your situation. Working with a life insurance advisor can help you build the right life insurance plan and package for your needs.
At Protect Your Wealth, we work with and compare policies and quotes from the best life insurance companies in Canada to ensure the best solution for you and your needs. We provide expert life insurance solutions, including no medical life insurance, critical illness insurance, term life insurance, and permanent life insurance to build the best package to give you the protection you need.
Contact Protect Your Wealth or call us at 1-877-654-6119 to talk to an advisor today! We’re proudly based out of Hamilton, and service clients anywhere in Ontario, including areas such as Barrie, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Waterdown.