Mayor Bart Castleberry on Friday signed a proclamation recognizing November as Diabetes Awareness Month and Nov. 14 as Diabetes Screening Day in the city of Conway.

“This has special significance for me,” he said.

Castleberry was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in November 1972. He experienced a drastic weight loss over a three-week period when he was in the ninth grade.

“We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was getting ready to go to school and I passed out in the shower,” he said. “My mom took me to the hospital in Little Rock. I was in the hospital for two weeks, got out right before Thanksgiving.”

Castleberry has been an insulin-dependent diabetic for 46 years and said he had a message for young people with the disease.

“Treatment of [diabetes] has come so far and if you manage it, take care of it and do what your doctor says, you’ll live a normal life. And there will be be a cure in their lifetime,” he said.

Castleberry was joined by members of the Conway Evening Lions Club, staff from the Conway Regional Diabetes Self Education Management Training and the Faulkner County Library — the groups that partnered with the city for the proclamation.

Conway Evening Lions Club officer Norm Moyer said the group wanted to help raise awareness of diabetes and how the disease can contribute to vision problems. Lions Club is best known for fighting blindness.

Conway Regional is one of only two hospitals in Arkansas that has received recognition from the Centers for Disease Control to be called a Diabetes Prevention Program site, spokesman John Patton said. The goal of the program is to teach wellness education to anyone that has pre-diabetes or is at risk for diabetes before the diagnosis.

In January, Medicare began covering pre-diabetes treatment provided by CDC-recognized diabetes prevention programs as the nation rushes to slow the increase in diabetes cases, Conway Regional Diabetes Self Education Management Coordinator Rhonda Tosh said, adding that Medicare is the insurance standard bearer so other insurers are likely to follow.

National Diabetes statistics:

* In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4 percent of the population, had diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) project that more than one in three people in the United States have pre-diabetes, about 86 million people. Nine out of 10 of those people do not know they have it. People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and for heart disease and stroke.

* Diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

* Evidence-based research has proven if someone at risk for diabetes improves their lifestyle with exercise and only 5-7 percent weight loss, they have a 58 percent chance to prevent the onset of diabetes.

For more information about Conway Evening Lions Club, visit https://e-clubhouse.org/sites/conwayevening/index.php or attend one of their meetings. The club meets at 6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday at Smitty’s BBQ.