When purchasing life insurance, applicants generally are put into one of these broad categories:

* Preferred risk. This includes people in the best health.

* Standard risk. People who have only minor health concerns are placed here.

* Substandard risk. Below standard risk, applicants are placed into various "Tables," determined by the severity of their health problems. Someone with diabetes might be placed in Table 2 while someone who has had a heart attack might be in Table 4.

The higher the Table, the more you’ll have to pay. A standard risk might pay 70 percent more than a preferred risk, for the same coverage. Someone in Table 2 might pay 50 percent more than a standard risk. Anyone who smokes likely will pay even more.

Most applicants can qualify for life insurance, at some price. However, insurers may reject applicants who are judged to have a terminal medical condition and may die soon.

You may have to take a physical exam for life, disability, health, or long-term care. If you’re on the borderline, these precautions might improve the results and possibly push you into a healthier category, with lower costs:

* Watch what you eat. Don’t eat for at least eight hours before the exam. For the previous few days, avoid steaks and other fatty foods.

* Watch what you drink. Stay away from alcohol and from caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, or cola. Drink as much water as you can manage.

* Watch your schedule. Take your physical first thing in the morning, after a night of sleep. That will hold down your stress level–-and your blood pressure.

* Watch how you exercise. A strenuous workout before your exam can affect tests of liver function and downgrade your results.

Schedule your exam for a doctor’s office, where the equipment will be more accurate than a portable machine a paramedic brings to your home.