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Heart attack do's & don'ts: Knowing what to do can save your life

Each year, 790,000 Americans have a heart attack. Did you know how you respond while it’s happening can affect your life for years to come? 

When it comes to a heart attack, every second matters, and what you do or don’t do can impact your chances of making it through alive.

Do's

Call 911 right away if you’re having symptoms. Chest pain, jaw discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, or dizziness are all signs of a heart attack.

RELATED: Women in cardiac arrest less likely to get CPR from bystanders

Chew and swallow an aspirin unless you’re allergic or have been told not to. If you have a nitroglycerin prescription, take it as directed.

Don'ts

Avoid driving yourself to the hospital unless you absolutely have to.

Don’t take anyone else’s prescription of nitroglycerin.

Don’t take aspirin if you think you’re having a stroke -- it can make some types of strokes worse.

And definitely don’t ignore your symptoms. Getting prompt treatment could mean the difference between life and death. 

The average person waits three hours before seeking help for symptoms of a heart attack. The longer you wait for treatment, the more chances of survival go down and damage to the heart goes up.