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Understanding How GLP-1 RAs Work to Treat Diabetes and Obesity

Nov 02, 2023
Understanding How GLP-1 RAs Work to Treat Diabetes and Obesity

Understanding How GLP-1 RAs Work to Treat Diabetes and Obesity

Type 2 diabetes and obesity affect millions of Americans, increasing their risk of heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney disease, dementia, and even death. Fortunately, some treatments can help manage and even reverse both conditions, including innovative medications called GLP-1 receptor agonists (RAs).

At STL Medical Weight Loss in Chesterfield, Missouri, and McKinney, Texas, Joseph Moleski, DO, and Margaurette Walsh, PA-C, offer two types of GLP-1 RAs — semaglutide and tirzepatide. To mark National DIabetes Month, this post focuses on helping you understand how these medications work and how they could help you keep Type 2 diabetes and obesity under control.

Quick facts about diabetes and obesity

Before delving into how GLP-1 receptor agonists work, it’s important to review some basics about Type 2 diabetes and how it affects your body. 

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease that happens when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin efficiently and effectively. Typically, Type 2 diabetes happens in people who are overweight or obese. That extra weight interferes with insulin production, causing your body to become resistant to its effects. 

By contrast, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that happens when your immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. While GLP-1 RAs can be used to treat and manage Type 2 diabetes, they’re not used to manage Type 1 diabetes.

Like Type 2 diabetes, obesity affects millions of Americans, too, and it also increases your risks of serious medical problems. Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are also closely linked, with obesity being a primary risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.

How GLP-1 receptor agonists work

GLP stands for glucagon-like peptides. Glucagon is a chemical that works with the hormone insulin to help regulate glucose levels — while insulin prevents glucose levels from getting too high, glucagon helps keep those levels from dropping too low. 

GLP-1 receptor agonist medications work by stimulating insulin production to help your body manage glucose better. More effective glucose management decreases diabetes symptoms and can even help reverse the course of diabetes.

At the same time, GLP-1 RAs slow down the rate of digestion, helping you feel full so you can avoid overeating. These medications are so effective that semaglutide has already received FDA approval for obesity treatment, and tirzepatide approval is expected very soon. Because being overweight can lead to Type 2 diabetes or make existing diabetes worse, this key function also helps keep glucose levels under control.

GLP-1 RA therapy: What to expect

GLP-1 RAs are administered via self-injection. When you’re prescribed one of these medications, you’re also provided with complete instructions and one-on-one guidance on how to administer the injections. Each injection is made into your arm, thigh, or belly, rotating sites each time.

The dose of medication and frequency of injections varies from person to person. During your initial evaluation, we determine your starting dose, then adjust it as needed based on checkups and regular glucose monitoring (which you also do on your own).

In addition to helping you manage (or even reverse) Type 2 diabetes, GLP-1 agonists help prevent diabetes complications, like kidney damage, vision loss, and neuropathy. And, of course, by helping you manage your weight, they may also reduce risks associated with being overweight or obese.

Find out if GLP-1 RAs are right for you

GLP-1 RAs can be a great addition to your Type 2 diabetes management plan alongside a healthy diet and regular physical activity. To learn if they’re a good choice for you, call or book an appointment online with STL Medical Weight Loss at our locations in Chesterfield, Missouri, or McKinney, Texas, today.