Lung Disease and COPD Greatly Increase Fall Risk

Lung disease can affect much more than just your breathing. In fact, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic respiratory issues can cause shortness of breath, which leaves you feeling dizzy, weak, and fatigued. Not being able to breathe well depletes the oxygen levels in your blood, affecting your body’s ability to function properly.

If you have COPD or a similar lung disease, you are at an increased risk of losing your balance, falling, or even blacking out. In fact, a study published in the medical journal Respiratory Medicine shows that about a third of patients with COPD suffered at least one fall during the six months of the study. For this reason, it’s especially important for seniors with breathing issues to be prepared in case of a fall.

How Does COPD Impact Your Risk of Falling?

COPD and other lung diseases raise your fall risk more than most other conditions. When studying a large group of senior women, a 2003 study published in BMJ found that COPD played a role in more falls than other chronic conditions such as circulatory disease and coronary heart disease.

There are several ways COPD increases your fall risk. 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. More studies are needed to understand the role these risk factors may play, according to an article published in Respiratory Medicine.

How Do You Prepare for a Fall?

While it’s worthwhile to discuss ways to minimize your fall risk with your doctor, it’s also a good idea to be prepared in case you do fall. One of the best ways to ensure you can get help as soon as possible after a fall is to invest in a medical alert system. These devices contact a call center with just the push of a button.

A trained response center operator will promptly respond and can help you determine if you need emergency medical attention or assistance from 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 be a good idea for seniors with lung disease, 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. The HomeSafe with AutoAlert system, for example, detects greater than 95 percent of many types of falls.1

COPD not only makes it difficult to breathe, but it can also affect your mobility and drastically increase your fall risk. Being prepared for a fall is the best way to stay safe and healthy. Investing in a medical alert system is also investing in your sustained health and independence.

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