What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

COPD is an obstructive, long-term lung disease that results in difficulty breathing.

COPD damages the airways (bronchioles) that transport oxygen into the lungs, and it also results in damage to the air sacs at the end of the airways (alveoli).

The end result is that not enough oxygen can be drawn into the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath.

What Causes COPD?

The number one contributor to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is smoking.

Poor air quality (e.g. air pollution or cooking fires inside a main living quarter) can also lead to COPD. This is especially true if you have had serious lung infections in the past.

In addition, some people may have a genetic disposition towards getting COPD.

COPD Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

COPD symptoms are as follows:

  • Persistent cough.
  • Mucous present when coughing.
  • Persistent shortness of breath.
  • Persistent tiredness and weight loss.

There is no known cure for COPD, only treatment, so it is important to make changes (if necessary) to your lifestyle to prevent COPD from occurring. Some good suggestions are:

  • Quit smoking (probably the most important change a person can make). This includes avoiding second-hand smoke.
  • Get regular cardiovascular exercise (also very important).
  • Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish (sardines and salmon are good choices), flax seeds and walnuts.
  • Check the air quality in your home. Make sure your home is not excessively moist and damp (use a de-humidifier if need be).

COPD treatment may consist of one or more of the following:

  • Bronchodilators.
  • Corticosteroids (usually used in more severe cases). Note that there may be significant side effects to long-term use of high dose corticosteroid treatments (e.g. suppression of immune system, osteoporosis, insomnia, etc.).
  • Regular exercise.
  • Oxygen (e.g. oxygen tank).
  • Surgery (in extreme cases only).
  • Natural vitamin D supplements (helps to improve respiratory muscle strength).

Factors That Affect the Underwriting of Life Insurance Application

The following are the most important factors that underwriters look at when processing a life insurance application from a person with COPD:

  • Age of the applicant.
  • Smoking history and current use of tobacco products.
  • Significant weight loss.
  • Any treatments received.
  • Response to any treatments received.
  • Severity of symptoms (e.g. loss of breath).
  • How fast COPD is progressing.
  • Deficiency in alpha-1 antitrypsin or any other biochemical imbalance.
  • Whether or not hospitalization was required due to COPD.
  • Existence of any other major medical conditions or diseases (e.g. cancer or coronary artery disease).

If you have COPD please consider quitting smoking and getting regular physical exercise!

How to Speed Up an Application

People with COPD can help to speed up the processing of their life insurance application by having the following at their fingertips:

  • Have an APS ready to go (Attending Physician Statement).
  • Full details concerning lifestyle modifications (e.g. description of all physical exercise, quit smoking, diet changes, etc.).
  • Pulmonary test results were done as a result of COPD symptoms.
  • Details of adherence to any treatments recommended by a doctor.

Likely Underwriting Decisions

The following describes the most common underwriting decisions for applicants with COPD.

(Please note that airflow obstruction is measured using “FEV1”, which is the forced expiratory volume of air that can be exhaled in 1 second.)

  • Mild case (FEV1 60-69): from standard rates to 200%.
  • Moderate (FEV1 50-59): 150% or decline.
  • Severe (FEV1 40-49): 250% or decline.
  • Very Severe (FEV1 ≤ 39): always declined.

Contact Baker & Baker Benefits

It is possible to get life insurance coverage if you have COPD and the symptoms are not severe.

The more changes you make to alleviate the symptoms, the better you will feel and the cheaper the premiums will be.

Please feel free to contact us at 1-866-369-4474 if you have any questions or need assistance buying life insurance.


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