By Jen Kastner
ODESSA- Many West Texans love to dip and chew tobacco, despite all the health concerns. Medical Center Hospital says lately it's seeing more dip-using patients walking through its doors who are having serious heart problems.
Odessan Mike Avioa started using tobacco when he was just thirteen years old.
"I was basically using two packs a day and before I started smoking two packs a day I was also dipping at the same time I was smoking," he tells NewsWest 9.
He has since quit, but thousands of folks in the basin are still buying cans of dip off the shelves.
Most people associate dipping tobacco with oral complications like gum disease. What many people don't know is that it can cause serious heart issues. Medical Center Hospital has seen a jump in the number of dip users with heart disease. They're treating these patients more often than one might think.
"Closer to everyday as opposed to every week," said MCH Cardiac Cath Lab Specialist Marty McCasland.
The tobacco changes the cardiac system. "Your vessels actually shrink in size and whenever that happens you actually put yourself at more risk for heart attacks and strokes. All of those incidents go up," adds McCasland.
It is impossible to say tobacco use causes heart disease. There are countless other factors involved in the development of heart problems, but MCH tells us tobacco use certainly doesn't help the heart. Even so, that's still not deterring users, who acknowledge it's not the healthiest nor the most attractive habit. Avioa says quitting wasn't easy.
"I went from about 200 pounds to about 300 pounds," he adds. Yet, heart specialists warn that the pain of quitting is still nowhere near the pain of a heart attack.