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Tips for Taking GLP-1 RAs for Type 2 Diabetes

Tips for Taking GLP-1 RAs for Type 2 Diabetes

This article is for people who are taking a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist (RA) for type 2 diabetes, or anyone who wants to learn more about managing type 2 diabetes. The goal of this patient education activity is to give you tips on how to take a GLP-1 RA and to help you understand how it can help manage diabetes.

You will learn about:

  • What a GLP-1 RA is

  • How it helps manage type 2 diabetes

  • Easy tips on how to take a GLP-1 RA

  • Side effects

  • Tips to manage diabetes

  • Questions to ask your doctor

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What is a GLP-1 RA?

A GLP-1 RA is a medicine that can help you lower your blood sugar levels and manage your diabetes better.

Your doctor may ask you to take this medicine alone or along with your other diabetes medicines to help you reach your diabetes goals.

How Does a GLP-1 RA Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes?

A GLP-1 RA increases the action of a hormone called GLP-1, which keeps blood sugar levels under control, including after having a meal. GLP-1 works mainly in 3 ways:

  • It tells the pancreas to make more insulin and less glucagon, helping to lower blood sugar levels

  • It tells the stomach to slow down digestion, helping to make blood sugar levels more steady

  • This medicine can also make you feel more full and decrease your appetite. Some patients may lose a little weight – which can also keep your heart healthy

A GLP-1 RA is available as a shot and pill. Talk to your doctor about which GLP-1 RA meets your dosing needs and diabetes goals.

Davida Kruger, a certified nurse practitioner, explains how GLP-1 RAs work in the body.

What If It’s a Shot?

There are a few different GLP-1 RA shots available. The shot comes with a small needle that goes under your skin in places like the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm.

To take a GLP-1 RA shot:

  • Find a comfortable place to sit

  • Clean the area where you will take the shot with an alcohol swab and let it dry

  • Hold the needle straight and place it under your skin

  • Inject the medicine and hold the needle in place for 10 seconds

  • Safely dispose of the needle

Depending on your needs, your doctor may prescribe to take this medicine either 2 times a day, once a day, or once a week.

A patient takes a shot in the abdomen.

What If It’s a Pill?

If you are having trouble taking the shot, a GLP-1 RA is also available as a pill.

To take a GLP-1 RA pill:

  • Take 1 pill in the morning on an empty stomach with a sip of water (no more than 4 ounces)

  • Wait at least 30 minutes before you have any other food or drink, and any other medicines that are pills

You have to take a GLP-1 RA for at least 3 months before you can see any benefits.

Easy Tips for Taking GLP-1 RAs

Here are some easy tips to follow when you take a GLP-1 RA.

GLP-1 RA shot:

  • Before taking the shot, take a deep breath and relax

  • Change where you take the shot at each dose (arm, thigh, or abdomen)

  • Let the medicine reach room temperature before your next dose

GLP-1 RA pill:

  • Take the pill when you wake up in the morning, with up to 4 ounces of water. Take it on an empty stomach and wait at least 30 minutes before having any other food or drink, and any other pill medicines

  • Do not split, crush, or chew the pill

  • Keep pills in a dry place, away from moisture

If you have stomach issues like nausea:

  • Eat smaller meals

  • Avoid fried and fatty foods

  • Stop eating when you feel full

Davida Kruger gives easy tips on how to take the shot or pill version of a GLP-1 RA.

Are There Side Effects?

When you take a GLP-1 RA, you may have milder side effects like:

  • Stomach issues: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, heartburn

  • Low blood sugar (if you are taking a GLP-1 RA with other diabetes medicines): feeling dizzy, shaky, or like your heart is racing, having blurry vision, feeling confused

  • Pain in your abdomen

  • Headache

Although it is rare, you should call your doctor if you have any of these serious side effects:

  • Inflammation of the pancreas: severe pain from your abdomen to your back that does not go away, with or without vomiting

  • Thyroid problems: trouble swallowing or hoarseness in your throat

  • Gallbladder problems: nausea, vomiting, fever, yellowing of the eyes or skin, pain in your abdomen

  • Eye problems: blurry vision, seeing spots

  • Kidney problems (if you become dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea): not going to the bathroom a lot, feeling dizzy or weak, having fast breathing or a fast heartbeat

What Else Can I Do to Manage My Diabetes?

Along with taking your diabetes medicines as prescribed, practice these habits to keep your heart healthy and to lower your blood sugar levels:

  • Be physically active for least 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week

  • Choose a healthy diet with foods that are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber (including fruits and non-starchy vegetables)

  • Drink enough water

  • Limit drinking alcohol

  • Quit smoking if you smoke

  • Manage stress

  • Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Which GLP-1 RA is right for me?

  • How often do I have to take my GLP-1 RA?

  • What are some other tips for taking a GLP-1 RA?

  • What else should I do to manage my diabetes better?

  • When should I get emergency help?

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Authors and Disclosures


Davida F. Kruger, MSN, APN-BC, BC-ADM

Certified Nurse PractitionerHenry Ford Health SystemDivision of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Bone and Mineral DiseaseDetroit, Michigan Disclosure: Davida F. Kruger, MSN, APN-BC, BC-ADM, has disclosed the following relevant financial relationships:Served as an advisor or consultant for: Abbott; AstraZeneca; BI-Lilly; Dexcom; Eli Lilly and Company; Janssen; Novo Nordisk; Pendulum; Sanofi; XerisServed as a speaker or a member of a speakers bureau for: Abbott; AstraZeneca; Dexcom; Eli Lilly and Company; Janssen; Novo Nordisk; XerisReceived grants for clinical research from: Abbott; Dexcom; Novo Nordisk; SanofiOwns stock, stock options, or bonds from: Pendulum

Clinician Reviewer

Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD

Senior Director Learning and Content Development, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Susan L. Smith, MN, PhD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


Asha P. Gupta, PharmD, RPh

Senior Scientific Content Manager, Medscape, LLC

Disclosure: Asha P. Gupta, PharmD, RPh, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


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