With more than three-and-a-half million South Africans affected by diabetes, and many more undiagnosed, Team Bestmed-ASG aim to change lives for the better when they join the Novo Nordisk Cycle 4 Diabetes relay from November 5 to 7.

The fourth edition will see four invitational teams of four riders completing a 1 600km journey from Johannesburg to Pietermaritzburg and back. Each team will cover 400km and four provinces over the course of three days.

Bestmed-ASG veteran Gerhard Moolman, whose son and competitive cyclist Marco lives with diabetes, will join team manager Owen Botha and elite female riders Desray Sebregts and Michelle Benson on their quest to educate the public.

In South Africa, a growth rate of more than 10 per cent per year makes the country home to one of the fastest growing diabetes epidemics worldwide.

According to Botha, raising awareness is critical and that leading a healthy lifestyle could prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

“As health ambassadors, the team members take this event very seriously,” he said.

“Making people aware of diabetes is important. A healthy diet, regular exercise and knowledge about the disorder can prevent people from suffering with this illness.”

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterised by the body’s inability to absorb sugars needed to produce energy due to an insulin deficiency.

The rarer insulin-dependent Type 1 accounts for between five and 10 per cent of diabetes sufferers and is not preventable, whereas the predominant Type 2 is mainly a lifestyle disease.

The Council for Medical Schemes list diabetes as the third most prevalent illness on medical schemes’ chronic disease listings.

According to Bestmed’s executive head of marketing and distribution, Chris Luyt, approximately four per cent of the medical scheme’s members have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Luyt said Type 2 diabetes often went undiagnosed for years, leaving the sufferer with complications resulting from an untreated condition.

“Being overweight or obese can cause insulin resistance, which happens when the body isn’t able to use insulin in the right way. As Type 2 diabetes gets worse, the pancreas may make less and less insulin, which results in insulin deficiency.”

Luyt said an increasing number of young people were at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – or what was previously referred to as adult-onset diabetes – as a result of childhood obesity.

“A combination of overeating, poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity are factors that play a major role.

“Having our team modelling a healthy and active lifestyle out on the country’s roads is the first step in encouraging families to think differently about how they live.”

During the Novo Nordisk Cycle 4 Diabetes initiative, free public diabetes screening stations will be set up in partnership with the national department of health between 9am and 3pm daily at the following venues:

November 4 – Alex Plaza in Alexandra and Dobsonville Mall in Soweto
November 5 – Maponya Mall in Soweto
November 6 – Fairleigh Hall in Newcastle, Truro Hall in Pietermaritzburg, King Zwelithini Hall in Bhejuzulu, Vryheid, and Gert Sibande District Municipality in Standerton
November 7 – Mary Fitzgerald Square, Braamfontein, Johannesburg

Issued by: Coetzee Gouws
On behalf of: Team Bestmed-ASG