COPD can increase the risk of falling

Posted on: 1/11/2023

If you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or similar lung diseases, you are at an increased risk of losing your balance, falling, or even blacking out. Results from a recent study suggest that COPD is one of the chronic conditions with the highest prevalence of falls, second only to osteoarthritis. Fall incidence in people with COPD has been estimated to range between 25–46%. For this reason, it’s especially important for people with breathing issues to be prepared in case of a fall.

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties.

It includes:

  • Emphysema – damage to the air sacs in the lungs
  • Chronic bronchitis – long-term inflammation of the airways

COPD is a common condition that mainly affects middle-aged or older adults who smoke. Many people do not realise they have it.

The breathing problems tend to get gradually worse over time and can limit your normal activities, although treatment can help keep the condition under control.

Symptoms of COPD

The main symptoms of COPD are:

  • Increasing breathlessness, particularly when you're active
  • A persistent chesty cough with phlegm – some people may dismiss this as just a "smoker's cough"
  • Frequent chest infections
  • Persistent wheezing

Less common symptoms of COPD include:

  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Swollen ankles from a build-up of fluid
  • Chest pain and coughing up blood – although these are usually signs of another condition, such as a chest infection or possibly lung cancer

These additional symptoms only tend to happen when COPD reaches an advanced stage.
Without treatment, the symptoms usually get progressively worse. There may also be periods when they get suddenly worse, known as a flare-up or exacerbation.

How does COPD impact your risk of falling?

Research links COPD to an increased risk of falling. Primarily, COPD prevents your blood from being properly oxygenated, meaning your organs and brain are not receiving the oxygen they need. This leads to chronic dizziness and can result in blackouts. Other symptoms of lung disease that increase your risk of falling include weakness in your leg muscles and impaired balance. Balance and strength are critical to staying steady on your feet.

There may also be other symptoms from COPD that affect your fall risk. Chronic breathing issues can cause malnutrition and other nutritional deficits, depression, and cognitive impairments, among other problems.

Help at the press of a button
Being prepared for a fall is the best way to stay safe and healthy. Investing in a Progress Lifeline personal lifeline alarm is also investing in your sustained health and independence.

At just the push of a button, this device contacts our alarm response centre. One of our friendly team alarm response operators will promptly respond and will determine if you need emergency medical attention or assistance from one of our emergency home responders or a friend or family member. You’ll feel more confident knowing help can be accessed quickly, enabling you to remain independent longer.

A device with built-in fall detection may also be a good idea for people living with lung-related conditions, because you may not be able to call for help if a blackout occurs. Modern fall detection systems are highly accurate and can detect most types of falls.

Learn more about our products, or give our team a call on 03333 204 999. Alternatively, you can email us at or complete our  online enquiry form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.