Conway officials took a step toward raising awareness for diabetes on Wednesday.

Mayor Bart Castleberry and Conway Regional Medical Center staff joined together at City Hall, where Castleberry signed a proclamation declaring November as National Diabetes Month and Nov. 14 as World Diabetes Day in Conway.

"Diabetes is like any other disease," Castleberry said. "If you’ll get a good health care provider, if you have a good nutritionist and dietitian and if you stay on top of it, then you can live an active, normal life just like anyone else."

Conway’s mayor said he’s been dealing with having diabetes and the effects of the disease for 47 years.

"It is a disease that is 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said. "It never takes a vacation so you have to surround yourself with good health care and good people like we have here in Conway and do the best you can. It works out."

Castleberry said raising awareness for the disease is important because it has become an epidemic in America.

Dr. William Freeman, medical director of the Conway Regional Wound Healing Center, said he agrees with Castleberry’s statement and that obesity is a contributing factor.

"There’s something like 30 million people that have died and a good percentage of those end up in our wound center, where we try to prevent the amputations and things like that but the better thing to happen is to have diabetes controlled so that they don’t end up in my place," he said.

Ways to control the disease, Freeman said, is through keeping up with primary care provider, managing it and not just thinking it will go away.

"Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it," he said. "You have to deal with it the rest of your life."

Freeman said Type 2 diabetes — different than Type 1 or juvenile-onset — does not necessarily target one age group but is everywhere now.

Diabetes Education Coordinator Rhonda Tosh said 15 percent of Arkansas’ population has the disease, and a large percent of the cause is drilled down to fried foods and sweet tea — the state is number one in the nation for stroke because of diabetes.

"When you have diabetes, from a cardiovascular standpoint, that puts you in the same category as someone who’s already had a heart attack or a stent or something like that," Freeman said.

Tosh said while age may not be a factor, Hispanic and African American peoplem are at more risk and anyone who is obese — a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30 — triggers odds.

"I’m a registered dietitian and diabetes educator and board certified diabetes specialist, and what we know [is] all foods can fit in," she said. "So many people think it’s so rigid. It’s not."

Tosh said she hasn’t met anyone in 19 years that needed to control their blood sugar and couldn’t do it.

"A lot of times, it’s just two fork fulls [of] less food [and] moving more," she said.

Tosh said for people who need help, the Conway Regional Diabetes Self-Management Education Program can help with meal planning, medications, exercise, stress management, monitoring, preventing complications and setting goals.

"[Diabetes] doesn’t hold people down like it used to. If you have good health care, you can live a really great life," Castleberry said.

For more information on the education program, visit