You drink a glass of OJ at breakfast... crack open a can of soda at lunch... and grab a fancy coffee drink mid-afternoon.

Before you even get to dinner, you've already guzzled a whole meal's worth of calories -- in liquid form!

And faster than you can say Jack Robinson, you could drink more sugar than you'd eat in a slice of cake or a bowl of ice cream.

In fact, according to a new study, regularly knocking back sugary beverages may actually be WORSE for your health than raiding the dessert tray -- because over time, those liquid sugars could tax your heart in a deadly way.

In the study, which was recently presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association, researchers gave about 18,000 people -- none of whom had heart disease -- questionnaires about their intake of sugary drinks and foods and then followed them for six years.

By the end of the study, it turned out that those who drank the MOST sugar-sweetened beverages each day -- the equivalent of about two cans of soda daily -- had more than DOUBLE the risk of DYING from heart disease than those who drank the LEAST.

And that held true even after the researchers controlled for other factors that typically boost heart disease risk, including smoking, inactivity, and high blood pressure.

Curiously, the study didn't find a link between eating a lot of sugary FOODS and an increased risk of death. The association was limited to sugary DRINKS.

Now, that doesn't mean that sugar-loaded foods will do your heart any favors.

The theory is simply that the liquid sugars in drinks can spike your blood sugar even more quickly than sugars in solid foods because they speed through your digestive tract with little fat, fiber, or protein to slow them down.

And the steeper those blood sugar spikes, the more strongly your blood vessels contract, making heart attacks more likely AND more severe .

Sugar-sweetened beverages have also been linked to everything from obesity to diabetes and hypertension -- all of which are bad news for your heart.

So, to protect your ticker, you want to avoid beverages with added sugar like your life depends on it... because it does!

That goes for everything from fizzy sodas to Frappuccinos to fruit juice.

Of course, orange, cranberry, and cherry juices all contain natural fruit sugars and do have proven health benefits.

But read labels carefully -- because when the ingredients include "high-fructose corn syrup" or "juices from concentrate," it's just sly way of upping the sugar content without using the word "sugar."

The best way to wet your whistle is with a cool glass of plain ol' water... or a steaming cup of unsweetened tea.