Dr. Krystal Culler

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    Dr. Krystal Culler

    Optimising Your Brain Health and Wellness Lincoln Recruitment Specialists

My guest today is Dr. Krystal Culler.

 

Dr. Krystal Culler, DBH, M.A, is the Founder of Your Brain Health Matters, a consulting business that offers a variety of brain health and memory care services to senior care professionals and businesses to make their projects and initiatives thrive. Through the Virtual Brain Health Centre she educates brain wellness to individuals online.

 

As a Doctor of Behavioral Health, her areas of expertise are in healthy aging, brain health, memory care, and dementia risk reduction. Krystal is also a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health with the Global Brain Health Institute.

 

After an isolated seizure event at graduate school, her career path shifted from a traditional academic track to a healthcare practitioner role. Central to her doctoral training is the design of cost-effective health approaches to treat chronic and comorbid conditions while addressing the social impacts on health. 

 

Krystal helps translate the latest research on brain health through practical daily approaches and community-based programs. ​Her work lies between the intersection of brain health and wellness, and the health/ ageing services sectors. As it’s clear in the interview, our brain health is a priority, not an option.

 

It’s a pleasure to have Krystal join us in this episode as we cover lifestyle practises, what to consider when ageing and practising lifelong learning.

 

Regards,

 

Shay

 


Show Summary

 

2:42 The current climate in the US

  • People are seeking more resources about their health and wellbeing

 

3:31 Describing ‘brain health’

  • It’s a life-course approach to wellness
  • It’s about how you think, move and feel

 

4:18 What optimal brain health looks like

  • It’s individual to you , but there are overlapping facets
  • There’s a shift in the brain health field
  • “Have the quality of life for the years that we’re living”

 

5:11 Differing perspective on optimal brain health

  • The Global Brain Institute’s survey on the global perspectives
  • Impact on being a mainstream term
  • 1940s WHO definition of health: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”

 

6:45 What causes differences in personality and intelligence?

  • “We are all unique”
  • Rapid development happens at a young age
  • The role of early years education

 

7:42 The main brain risk factors

  • The Lancet Commission Study
  • Consider the 7 factors from the neck up
  • Lessons from the latest research in physically protecting our brains
  • Hearing health
  • The need for 7 – 9 hours of quality sleep
  • The link between heart and brain health
  • The impact of our environment and how we engage with it (e.g. air pollution, social connection, etc)

 

11:55 Krystal’s personal experience with an isolated seizure

  • Still deals with ongoing neurological conditions
  • Her experience with US healthcare system at the time: “there had to be a better way to improve and bring everything together”
  • Empathising with the individuals she works with

 

14:26 What causes forgetfulness

  • Not giving full attention to the activity
  • It takes usually 8 seconds for something to become a memory
  • The Doorway Effect: not a complete answer yet why we get ‘blocks’

 

16:50 Storage vs retrieval with our memories

  • Our brains like the bizarre and novel
  • Allocating our mental capacity to learning new skills instead of remembering anniversaries or birthdays
  • The World Memory Championships

 

19:20 Memory glitches

  • Warning signs are when they continue to increase
  • It’s a good sign if you’re aware of them

 

21:04 Exercises that keep our brains nimble

  • “What makes your brain sweat?”
  • Needs to be three things: new, novel and challenging
  • 15 minutes of brain activity a day

 

23:44 Learning new things effectively

  • Vary the way you learn (e.g. written, oral, movement, etc.)
  • Easy to learn in different ways today
  • Make it a challenge without it being frustrating

 

25:16 Lifestyle habits to adopt

  • Self-awareness of your lifestyle
  • Incrementally change and improve your habits
  • “It’s never too early or too late”
  • Diet, physical activity and sleep

 

27:27 Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and other nutrients in our diet

  • Healthy fats are fuel for the brain
  • Eating foods that look like a body organ (e.g. walnuts/ the brain)
  • Reduce processed foods and increase wholefoods
  • Importance of hydration: brain can get dehydrated in two hours
  • Be in tune with your mood and performance to also note the positive/ negative impact of your diet

 

32:44 Impact of long-term stress on our brains

  • Overactivates our stress-response systems
  • Can lead to anxiety, depression, poor digestion, weight, headaches, poor sleep
  • 90% of our stress hormone, cortisol, is produced in our gut

 

34:03 Practical steps to reduce long-term stress

  • Build a ‘stress-busting toolbox’
  • Physical activity, being outdoors, socialising, going inward
  • The power of time out

 

36:38 Professor Ian Robertson on using language to harness stress

  • “Language helps shape our perception, and perception is the mind-constructed model of our experience – which is our reality”
  • Shift from threat mindset to a challenge opportunity
  • “I am excited” affirmation
  • It takes work

 

38:32 Her time at Trinity College

  • Studied with Professor Ian Robertson and Brian Lawlor
  • The Global Brain Health Institute

 

40:41 Does language work for some and not for others?

  • Negativity bias and the cycle of ruminating is a form of protection
  • It takes active work to break that cycle, but it becomes easier over time
  • “It’s something we can all do”

 

43:23 Relationship between confidence and being positive, and having a healthy aging brain 

  • Professor Becca Levy’s 2002 study on the perception of aging and its impact on our longevity of life
  • Buffering dementia through this habit
  • Seeing more supporting studies

 

45:28 The impact of living a life with purpose

  • Proof from the Blue Zones about having purpose
  • Have a purpose bigger than you, eg. family, service, etc.

 

47:24 Practising restfulness

  • Brain breaks throughout the day
  • Grounding activities

 

48:49 What deep sleep does for us and some practical tips

  • The body’s cleansing cycle
  • Memory restoration
  • Establish a routine, and don’t ‘bank on the weekend’
  • Identify relaxation rituals
  • Treat your room like your oasis
  • Avoiding blue light from electronic devices approximately 1 hour before bed

 

52:15 The role of meditation

  • Neuroimaging has revealed the positive impact of regular practice
  • Strengthens the amygdala, the emotional control center of our brain, which helps regulate our emotions
  • Improvements of the hippocampus: our memory part of the brain
  • Supports people with neurological disorders
  • Alters our brainwave states

 

54:40 Recommended forms of meditation

  • Kirtan Kriya meditation, from the Kundalini yoga tradition. It’s guided, structured, and works on: posture, breath, movement, visualisation, and the motor and sensory areas of the brain.
  • Binaural beats
  • Explore other yoga and mindful techniques
  • Start with just a minute a day

 

57:51 On the vagus nerve: the longest nerve in our body

  • Carries signals from the brain to the body
  • Has a big role in our appetite, digestion, and rest

 

1:00:18 What neuroplasticity is, and how it can help us

  • It’s our brain’s ability to adapt and change
  • The need for lifelong learning
  • Studies will help provide a better definition of what lifelong learning is. It’s currently defined as ‘educational attainment’.
  • Learn things beyond your professional work life
  • Make learning and stimulation a normal activity

 

1:05:50 The key to habituising our habits

  • Be consistent, but know what your body and mind is telling you on the day
  • Setting achievable goals (e.g. SMART)

 

1:07:44 Tell-tale signs of an aging brain

  • Aging process begins after aged 45
  • “Everything is aging with us as we go”
  • Links with lifestyle can speed up or slow the aging process

 

1:08:44 Risks on the brain through aging

  • Awareness of normative changes and your perception of aging
  • “Your brain and body doesn’t know our chronological age”

 

1:10:51 Is dementia a uniquely human disease?

  • Otherwise known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome
  • Known to be in other animals too
  • Benefits of being with animals like dogs for individuals with dementia
  • Growth of popularity in pets during Covid-19

 

1:15:50 Tricking yourself to being younger

  • ‘Counterclockwise’ by Ellen Langer and her experiments to trick our perception of age
  • Powerful tactic for those with dementia

 

1:18:15 Effects on our brain when we socialise

  • Positive impact from as little as ten minutes of daily chit-chat/ conversation with someone else
  • Interconnect with people 12 times a week
  • Covid has brought a greater appreciation for social health
  • Connect with at least one person a day

 

1:21:Our relationship with social media

  • Set boundaries as our personal time is a valuable resource
  • Digital Dementia: breaking down people’s cognitive abilities
  • The average attention span has shortened from seven to two minutes

 

Links and resources mentioned in this episode: