When you apply for life insurance, you will be asked a number of questions about your family medical history. These questions are intended to identify possible hereditary conditions and better establish the risks of insuring you personally. Each insurer will then use that information according to their own underwriting guidelines to determine how much your premiums will be, or if you are eligible for coverage at all.
Not everything in your family medical history will count against you, and the things that do are weighted differently. Color blindness, for example, does not affect your expected lifespan, but asthma might. A family history of heart disease will count against you more than a family history which includes cancer, because heart disease is more of a hereditary condition than cancer.
Medical conditions which occur after the age of 60 are weighted much lower than those which occur earlier in life. This includes many conditions, including such things as diabetes. The earlier a condition shows up in your family history, the more of a risk there is that you will contract the condition. This is even more pronounced in whole life insurance, but holds true for term life insurance as well.
Your family history can work for you as well as against you. If your family medical background does not contain such conditions as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, you may receive much lower rates than someone else who does have such factors in their medical background. The point is that your family medical history can save you money, not just cost you more, with a favorable background.
You family medical history is only one tool used by life insurance agents to determine the amount of risk you policy would pose. In addition to you medical information, you rates will also be determined by things such as you occupation and any risky activities you partake of, such as skydiving or rock climbing. To keep your life insurance rates as low as possible, cut back on risky activities, quit smoking, and take up a regular exercise routine.