Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can no longer be considered as a disease affecting only the lungs. Increasing evidence supports the presence of a systemic inflammatory component which is thought to provide the link between COPD and the co-morbidities commonly associated with this disease. These include cardiovascular disorders, skeletal muscle dysfunction, diabetes, and osteoporosis. The majority of current therapies for COPD have been developed to improve airway obstruction or to target airway inflammation, leaving an unmet medical need with respect to the systemic inflammatory component of COPD and its extra-pulmonary manifestations. This review describes systemic biomarkers in COPD and their relationship with both the local lung and systemic manifestations of the disease. A summary is provided of the most promising biomarkers that have been investigated in COPD and its co-morbidities. Such biomarkers may be used to assess and manage the systemic effects of COPD, and may guide future development of novel therapeutic interventions to provide a more holistic approach to treating this multi-faceted disease.