“Diabetes is a silent killer,” said Madolyn Agrimonti. For 25 years, Agrimonti has been a diagnosed diabetic and is now chairing the Diabetes Committee for the Sonoma Valley Health Roundtable, linking Sonoma health agencies and nonprofits to the community in order to spread awareness of and increase prevention of the disease she has battled for so long.
The Sonoma Valley Health Round Table is a group comprised of health professionals in the Valley who collaborate to improve health in the greater community. Sonoma Valley Health Roundtable members include representatives from Sonoma Valley Hospital, Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, City of Sonoma, Sonoma Valley Unified School District, St. Joseph Health, Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley, and Sonoma County Department of Health Services. In 2012, Sonoma Valley Health Roundtable became a chapter of Sonoma County Health Action, a countywide collaborative effort to make Sonoma County the healthiest county in California.
One agency Agrimonti said is doing especially important work toward that end is Redwood Empire Food Bank, which is based in Santa Rosa and serves all of Sonoma County. In fall 2011, the food bank received a grant through Feeding America and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to fund a Diabetes Wellness Project. Through the project, the food bank aims not only to help individuals gain access to healthy foods and live with their diabetes under control, but also provide education to prevent high-risk individuals from getting diabetes.
Diabetes Wellness Project leader and registered nurse, Morgan Smith, said, “Managing a chronic disease like diabetes can be a tremendous challenge. Managing diabetes while also struggling with access to food makes that challenge even harder.”
Through its project, the food bank is trying to address both food insecurity and diabetes.
“Sometimes you really feel like you are pushing a big rock ahead of you … and you can go through life just not feeling well until something really bad just happens, you can’t see the internal damage,” Agrimonti said.
Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst and frequent urination, but left untreated diabetes can lead to more serious complications such as heart disease and kidney failure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25.8 million Americans – or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population – have diabetes, with more than 7 million people unaware they have the disease. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the nation.
There are three types of diabetes, type 1, type 2 and gestational. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong chronic disease in which there is an insulin deficiency due to destruction of cells in the pancreas, while type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by high blood sugar with insulin resistance and deficiency. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. Type 2 diabetes is of particular concern in the U.S. as it accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults. Obesity is considered the primary cause of type 2 diabetes.
It is also estimated, according to the National Diabetes Education Program through the National Institutes of Health, that 79 million Americans ages 20 and older have prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Studies have shown that by losing weight and increasing physical activity, people can prevent or delay prediabetes from progressing to diabetes.