March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics intended to raise awareness regarding healthy eating habits and the importance of physical activity.

Improving your physical fitness, eating well, and maintaining a healthy weight are important factors that affect longevity and the likelihood of illness. Consequently, insurers often look at your lifestyle when they establish your health insurance premiums. Here are the most relevant factors that affect insurance premiums.

Medical Risk Factors

While every insurance company establishes their own benchmarks for measuring risk, some have a proven record for increasing insurance claims. As a result, insurers ask specific questions when you apply for a policy to determine whether they’ll insure you and how much you’ll pay.

Tobacco Use

Insurance applications usually ask you whether you smoke and whether you’ve used tobacco products in the last 6 months. Tobacco use includes smoking cigars, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes and using chewing tobacco or snuff.

You may want to say you don’t smoke and benefit from lower premiums. However, misrepresentation on your application is insurance fraud. If you file a claim and the insurer discovers you smoke, or did smoke, they may cancel your policy and demand repayment of the premium difference.

Smoking increases cancer, stroke and heart disease risk, but many insurance plans cover smoking cessation products. Fortunately, health risks associated with smoking decrease as soon as you quit, so consider quitting for better health and lower insurance premiums.

Body Mass Index

The body mass index measures body fat based on your height and weight. If you carry too much weight it can lead to many health issues such as heart and joint problems, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, cancer, arthritis, gallstones, asthma, sleep apnea, and even infertility.

Consequently, losing weight, staying active and eating a well-balanced diet is of great importance if you want to reduce your insurance premiums and live a long, healthy life.

A 2017 study published by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests a 20-year old obese person could save an average of $28,020 in direct medical costs and fewer missed work days if they drop to a healthy weight. A 40-year-old obese person could save an average of $31,447. Since healthcare costs continually rise, you could expect to save even more.

If you need to lose weight, talk to your doctor. You may qualify for free help under the Affordable Care Act. Most plans purchased through the insurance health marketplace include services such as counseling and obesity screening, without a deductible or copay.

Profession

Yes, your profession can affect your insurance premiums. Obviously, working in hazardous environments costs more, but so does working in sedentary positions.

If you sit at a computer all, you may pay more since your inactivity increases risk of cardiovascular disease. You may pay more if your work involves repetitive tasks or motions since this can lead to joint and tendon issues.

While you might not want to quit your job for lower insurance premiums, you may want to consider a more active position or one that’s easier on your body if it becomes available.

Healthy Eating & Exercise

Since so many health conditions directly relate to diet, it makes sense to eat healthy. Eating well has many positive benefits including weight management, improved mood, reduced illness, and increased longevity.

The insurance industry understands the connection and now offers more products when people make great dietary choices. For instance, one insurer offers lower life insurance rates for vegans. Medicare Advantage Plans, other Medicare health plans, or Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plans sometimes cover gym memberships or fitness programs.

This trend towards rewarding a healthy lifestyle will continue. Why not start now and catch this wave for lower insurance premiums?