At his physical every year, Tom Hausserman watched his blood sugar levels rise.

He started with one pill to control his Type 2 diabetes. Eventually, he needed four.

The next step? Daily insulin. He really didn’t want to take that.

And high blood sugar wasn’t his only problem. He also had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and a family history of early onset coronary artery disease.

When he met with Spectrum Health preventive cardiologist Thomas Boyden, MD, Hausserman learned something that struck a note.

“I’ll never forget when he told me that if I start eating healthier, I might be able to get off my meds,” Hausserman said.

Three years later, that’s exactly what happened.

Hausserman, 50, has gone from taking several pills a day to taking a single heart medication. The Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all gone—and he’s lost around 50 pounds.

“It feels great,” Hausserman said. “I know that this will help me down the road to live a longer, healthier life, which is important to me. That’s my main focus.”

Making changes

For Hausserman, it proved a tough decision to get on the right path. And it took daily discipline to stay on that path.

In his first appointment with Dr. Boyden, Hausserman listened to the doctor talk about how lifestyle changes—eating healthier, becoming more active, getting good sleep, reducing stress—could greatly improve his health and potentially reverse some of the diseases he battled.

“I really try to get people to understand their role in their health,” Dr. Boyden said. “A lot of times patients have to get over that mental hump of saying, once they have Type 2 diabetes or hypertension, ‘Oh, I’m stuck with this.’”

But if patients do the hard work, there’s a good chance they might not need medications at all, Dr. Boyden said.

Hausserman heard all that, but he didn’t feel ready to make the needed changes.

His busy daily routine presented plenty of temptations. He drove every day from Ionia, Michigan, to Allegan—an hour and 15 minutes each way—to work as a project manager for a construction company.

He ate a lot of red meat, frequented fast food restaurants and drank up to seven sodas per day.

“I would stop at the gas station and buy a pop and a Hostess cupcake or a donut for the drive to work,” he said. “Then if I was running later for work and didn’t have time to make a lunch, I would go through the drive-thru for lunch.”

Dr. Boyden told him about the dangers of drinking so much soda, even diet soda.

“I told him I was never going to give it up,” Hausserman said.

Another appointment with Dr. Boyden came and went. Still Hausserman maintained his old habits.

“I was needing to check my blood sugar twice a day,” he said. “It was very high.”

But after his third appointment with Dr. Boyden in February 2020, something changed.

Hausserman’s wife, Cristi, decided to join Weight Watchers to improve her health. Hausserman joined her.

“On the weekends, she would cook a lot of healthy food,” Hausserman said. “She would make veggies, chicken, turkey, fish and put good portion sizes in mason jars for us to eat during the week. That’s how we lived for many months.”

When they needed to take a trip to North Carolina for their son’s golf tournament, they took healthy food to eat in their condo so they weren’t tempted by restaurants.

“We were dedicated,” he said.

His wife and daughter, Mallory, joined a Fit Body Boot Camp, then later switched to online workouts at home. Hausserman started joining them after he got home from work. His son, Tyler, exercised with them as well.

“Having it at home made it easy,” Hausserman said.

And the soda he vowed he would never give up? He gradually started replacing it with water.

He has since given up soda completely.

“I just found too many excuses and, eventually, I decided it was time to not have any more excuses,” he said.

Getting results

Instead of watching his blood sugar levels creep up, Hausserman is now reaping the rewards of his hard work.

His A1C dropped from a high of 8.5 to 5, without medication. His weight dropped from 235 to 185. His LDL cholesterol dropped by 33 percent.

Having the support of his wife and children proved critical.

“Cristi really cares about our health—her health and my health,” he said. “My wife is a really good cook. She would make chicken, pork or turkey and mix it with vegetables. She puts spices in with it so it tastes really good.

“Now, I don’t really crave red meat,” he said. “I haven’t been to a fast food restaurant in over a year and before I went a few times a week. If we do go out to eat, instead of getting a big meal, we get one meal and split it.”

He’s thankful that Dr. Boyden kept encouraging him, even when he wasn’t ready.

“I learned a lot from him. He just kept pushing me to try it and finally, with my wife’s help, I did—and it’s paid off,” Hausserman said. “He talks the talk, but he also walks the walk. … That was important to me.”

Dr. Boyden said it’s important to him, as well, that he’s living the lifestyle he’s asking his patients to adopt.

“I joke with my patients that I spent 13 years in medical school just to realize that I need to eat healthy and be active,” he said.

He’s proud of Hausserman.

“The chances that he’s going to live longer and healthier are astronomically higher than when I first met him,” Dr. Boyden said. “You can cure your chronic illness, but you have to put in the effort to do it.”

His hope for Hausserman is that he continues the hard work and keeps reaping the benefits.

And Hausserman has no plans to let him down.

“It’s not easy. There’s a lot of temptation. But it’s worth it in the end.”