Overweight and a smoker - WOW! Are you in trouble!

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001 to 2004, about two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight and almost one-third are obese. If this were to continue, everyone in the U.S. could be overweight in forty years time. Some groups are already heading in that direction. For example, 80% of African-American women are overweight. Some 90% of Mexican-American men could be overweight in 25 years time. But there will probably be one or two people who resist the lure of the land of plenty and stay thin. We'll probably never actually get to 100%. Whoopee!

Why should this matter? Well, there's a proven link between being overweight and life-shortening conditions such as stroke, congestive heart failure, cancer and osteoarthritis. It would be fair to say that life insurance companies get very interested when you start talking about behavioral risk factors and mortality rates. Now add in the fact that overweight women who smoke are five times more likely to die young than non-smokers.

So the life insurance companies have produced a type of list. They classify people according to their risk of dying. If you're a "super preferred" you're disgustingly healthy with no bad habits. You're going to live decades longer than anyone else so you get the lowest premiums. But if you're only "preferred", the premiums have started to rise because you have a shorter life expectancy. The average U.S. life pays the "standard" rate. And then come all the others with depressing titles suggesting you may die tomorrow.

How does this affect you? Well, your premiums will be high if you are overweight. The rates will rise further if you have high blood pressure or high levels of cholesterol. If there's a family history of cancer, stroke, heart disease or anything else dealing out death, more increases. And then some companies double the rate if you're a smoker.

What should you do? Well, never lie about it. That gives life insurance companies the right to cancel the policy. The companies want real evidence that you're prepared to change your lifestyle. Obviously, you can't do anything about your family history, but you can quit smoking and lose weight. Make regular visits with your local health provider and have blood tests to show improving levels of cholesterol and lipids, keep records of falling blood pressure, etc. With evidence of continuing motivation for better health, you can resubmit your application for a life policy and negotiate a premium reduction.

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