New research finds that avoiding drinking soda and other sugary drinks may help reduce blood pressure. Earlier studies had linked sugary drinks to lots of troublesome conditions – obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of risk factors that up the risk for heart disease and diabetes), but until now, no research had found that drinking too many sweetened drinks can bring up blood pressure readings.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major risk for heart disease and dangerous, debilitating stroke.

The latest work included 810 adults (25-79 years old) who had prehypertension (120-139 for the systolic number, or 80-89 for the diastolic number) or early stage 1 hypertension (140-159 for the systolic number, or 90 -99 for the diastolic reading) who were taking part in an 18 month long trial intended to bring down blood pressure by losing weight, eating right and exercising.

The systolic number is the reading (the top number) that represents the heart at work, while the diastolic number (the bottom number) is the heart at rest. An ideal reading is now considered anything below 120/80.

Most of the subjects in the study drank an average of 10.5 fluid ounces of sugar or high fructose corn syrup containing drinks each day. The drinks included regular soda, fruit drinks, lemonade and fruit punch. When the subjects halved their soda intake, a 1.5 point reduction in the systolic pressure, and a 1.1 drop in the diastolic number were the result. This standing up even after controlling for other risk factors is known to be involved with hypertension. Hard to argument with that.

Americans down nearly 28 ounces (in 2.3 servings) of sugared drinks every day, making it a very popular choice, and according to the American Heart Association, one in three adults in the US has been diagnosed with hypertension.

Just imagine the impact of cutting the sugar-laden drinks on those numbers if more people got the message that these drinks are hurting their heart and blood pressure.

To put these findings in perspective, data cited in the report suggests that a three-point drop in systolic blood pressure could cut the risk of dying after a stroke by 8%; heart disease death by 5%.

What accounts for the effect of sweet beverages on blood pressure is not understood, but there are theories. Some believe these drinks, often loaded up with sodium, can up your blood pressure. The sugar raises levels of hormones known as catecholamines that actually cause blood pressure to go up.

There is also the belief that uric acid could be a factor. That high fructose corn syrup brings up uric acid levels, and this has been found to increase blood pressure. Not sure how much of this you're taking in? Start reading labels, and work to cut what you're consuming by half and you'll see some benefit.

For now there are 20 cities and states that are thinking about taxing sugar sweetened beverages, but no legislation has passed yet. This latest study is one of an incredibly long list that show the negative impact of drinking these beverages on the body, fueling more calls for taxing them.

In a written reply, the American Beverage Association maintains the focus on losing weight, cutting calories from all foods (and drinks) and burning more calories as the best way to bring those blood pressure numbers down. Specific food choices are not thought to factor into things at all, while weight loss clearly does have an impact. Also fair to note, this study is a secondary analysis of another that was looking at the impact of weight loss (not cutting foods / drinks) to reduce blood pressure.

Before you place all the blame on drinking sodas … condiments like ketchup and sauces also bring their share of trouble. And just think of the depths of these toppings you're using … we're all taking in more calories than we think, in more places than we realize.