This must be quite a diagnosis for you, and I'm glad you're seeking more information. I'll leave you with some links for further reading. But before I do that, I'll answer the basic questions you asked.
is a sign that your brain is not getting enough oxygen. This may be as a result of the heart disease
, a side-effect of the new medication that you are undoubtedly on, or both.
The edema (swelling from excess fluids) is a sign of your heart not being able to pump enough to get the fluid out of your legs.
I think it's very important to understand as much as you can about cardiomyopathy
(that's what you have, heart muscle disease
), what caused yours, and how you can treat it as effectively as possible. [Cardiomyopathy causes heart failure
, which is what you are now fighting.] Although the treatments for different types of cardiomyopathy are all very similar, especially the medications, the need for exercise, dietary constraints, long term prognosis, etc. are all somewhat related to what caused the damage in the first place.
For reading material, I recommend starting at chfpatients.com. It is written and presented by a fellow heart patient who has asked all the questions and done a great job of writing up his findings as he went along.
I recommend you start by reading "The Manual."
You will also find a great number of people that have been through the learning curve that you are on right now. I'll list some of the best places for that below.
You may also want to find a heart failure specialist if you haven't already. A general cardiologist is going to be able to diagnose the problem, but only a heart failure guru that sees people with problems like yours every day will be able to give you the best guidance. You are your own best advocate. If your doctor doesn't specialize in heart failure, go find one that does! This may be only an initial consultation. You may find that your primary care
doctor or a local cardiologist are fine for the most part. But it is definitely good to consult with a specialist.
Feel free to send me a message off-line if there is any way that I can help. I know how daunting this must feel, so I'm happy to give you pointers to whatever information you may want. (My wife and I were in a similar position less than a year ago.)
There are so many things to learn, so I'll try to avoid writing too much here. I'll leave with a couple more important tid bits of information:
You may find that severely limiting your sodium intake will help reduce the swelling. Fluid intake restrictions are also often recommended. You should ask your doctor about both of these things. Salt is really easy to reduce nowadays, with sodium content on just about every food label. And once you do reduce it, any foods with too much sodium will taste really salty to you. Anyway, this is a really smart thing that you can do for your heart, and it might help you to avoid or at least reduce the need for a diuretic
to take the water off.
I also strongly recommend going to cardio rehab. Most rehab is meant for people recovering from recent heart attacks, but it is just as important for you, to learn how to exercise safely as well as pick up inmportant insight into other lifestyle changes, medications, etc.