Dallas, Texas (NAPSI) - Cholesterol levels have long been the focus in promoting heart health, but many people may be surprised to learn that elevated triglycerides, affecting approximately a third of all Americans, are also a risk factor. Although heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women, there are large gaps in understanding it.

A new survey by the Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll revealed:

• While 75 percent of respondents are aware of their total cholesterol numbers, only 37 percent of respondents know their triglyceride levels.

• More than half don’t know whether high or low levels of triglycerides are better.

• Approximately three of four could not explain what triglycerides are or what role they play in heart health.

• Only 1 percent were aware that prescription omega-3 fatty acids, taken under the guidance of a health care professional, can reduce high triglyceride levels.

• Only 2 percent were aware that a common omega-3, known as DHA, may raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.

• While millions take omega-3 dietary supplements, nearly two-thirds of respondents are unaware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved these products for lowering triglycerides or any other heart-disease risk management factor.

“Triglyceride levels can be an important risk factor for heart and vascular disease, yet most consumers have little awareness of these often-forgotten fats,” said Eliot A. Brinton, M.D., Director of Atherometabolic Research at the Utah Foundation for Biomedical Research and President of the American Board of Clinical Lipidology. “Health care professionals have done a fairly good job educating patients about cholesterol, but we need to do more to teach about triglycerides and their role in cardiovascular disease and its prevention.

“Managing triglycerides effectively requires a multipronged approach. Diet and lifestyle changes are always needed, and one or more prescription medications may be required,” added Dr. Brinton. “Patients with high triglycerides need to talk with their doctors about all the treatment options, and should not decide on their own to take omega-3 dietary supplements as a substitute for prescription omega-3 products.”

To help remedy this, a new online resource has been created. Go to www.LowerMyTrigs.com to learn more about this “forgotten fat.