Put down your diet soda and listen up. Drinking a bubbly zero-calorie beverage daily may increase your risk of heart attack and stroke by 44 percent, according to new research of 2,600 older adults over a 10-year span.

For decades, manufacturers marketed diet colas as a healthier diet-conscious alternative to regular sodas that contain large amounts of sugars linked to health risks such as obesity and diabetes.

Subsequent research tied diet sodas, which replace sugar with exotic sweeteners such as aspartame or stevia, with increase risks for heart disease.

What we saw was an association, Hannah Gardener, lead researcher with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told Reuters. These people may tend to have more unhealthy habits.

Those who drank diet soda daily tended to be heavier and had existing heart risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and unhealthy cholesterol levels, Reuters reported.

Since the Journal of General Internal Medicine published the study online Jan. 27, the study has become increasingly popular online. Researchers at Columbia University in New York City also contributed to the study.

The researchers looked into the diet soda drinking habits of 2,564 residents of northern Manhattan over a 10-year period and found that those who drank diet soda daily had increased risks for vascular disease, including heart disease and stroke.

The researchers controlled the volunteers for several factors such as smoking, physical activity, body mass index, diet and alcohol consumption.

No risk was found for people who drank regular soft drinks or drank diet sodas from time to time. The correlation was only found with daily diet soda drinkers.

The only way researchers said to find a cause-and-effect would be to randomly assign people to drink diet soda or not and then follow their health over the years.

Gardner said such as study would be difficult and costly to undertake since it would involve following so many volunteers.