This study examined older Americans' use of food labels as a tool to moderate dietary risk factors for heart disease. Data from the USDA's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individual (CSFII) 1994- 96 and the Diet and Health Knowledge Survey (DHKS) from 2,846 respondents aged 51 years and older was used. Indices were constructed to measure and correlate dietary intake, label use and understanding, and health status data. Understanding and use of food labels was lower among older age groups, while heart-related health problems increased. Use of food labels and percent energy intake from fat were inversely related (P < 0.01). Older Americans would benefit from education on food label use and interpretation to decrease their dietary risk factors for heart disease.