OBJECTIVES: To determine the relationship of demographics to opinions and knowledge of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and dietary intake and to evaluate the relationship of dietary knowledge and dietary behaviors in rural African American adults. METHODS: The cross-sectional study involved a sample of participants who attended one of three cardiovascular information seminars in rural Macon County, Alabama. A total of 127 African American men and women, aged 21-75 years, completed a self-administered 79-item questionnaire. Data analysis included Chi-square and Fisher's exact tests. OUTCOME MEASURES: Agreement or disagreement with current scientific opinion regarding coronary heart disease, obesity, and dietary intake; agreement with statements of personal knowledge of heart disease, hypertension, and dietary intake; assessment and beliefs about the health risks associated with overweight/ obesity; and congruence between dietary knowledge and dietary practices. RESULTS: Women and older respondents tended to agree more with current scientific knowledge about heart disease mortality than did men and younger respondents. Younger respondents reported knowledge but less personal concern about fat intake/heart disease and salt intake/hypertension associations than did other age groups. Participants generally believed that excess weight increased the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer "a lot." Knowledge of the salt content of processed foods was associated with decreased frequency of adding salt at the table, while those not concerned about salt consumption and hypertension were more likely to add salt and consume processed meats. Respondents with knowledge of the effects of fat intake on heart disease were more likely to consume low-fat dairy products. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that sex and age, in particular, require consideration in the development of community cardiovascular disease intervention programs aimed at southern, rural African American adults.