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'The Expendables' actor Jet Li leaves fans worried for his health after recent picture shows him looking frail

Jet Li's underlying condition, hyperthyroidism, and a history of leg and spinal injuries have meant that the actor has been left frail and hunched over.
UPDATED FEB 20, 2020
Jet Li (Source:Getty Images)
Jet Li (Source:Getty Images)

Jet Li's death-defying stunts in movies such as 'Lethal Weapon 4,' 'The Forbidden Kingdom,' and 'The Expendables' franchise made him one of the most-beloved action heroes of the millennium, but recent pictures of the 55-year-old that have been circulating in social media has legions of his fans across the world concerned for the actor's health.

Hollywood Reporter cited Hong Kong's 'Apple Daily' in a report that contained a picture of a frail, bent-over Li during his recent visit to Tibet. The post in question initially led to a wave of confusion on social media, with many wrongly assuming that Li was the person on the left. A devout Buddhist, Li was visiting a temple in the 'Roof of the World' and was reportedly addressed by a group of children as 'grandpa.' 

Li, while 55, appeared as if he were at least 20 to 30 years older, which is because of his underlying condition, hyperthyroidism. In 2013, the Chinese actor revealed during the tape of a talent show he'd been judging that he had been dealing with the issue for the past three years.

Since the condition means that his heart rate can hit 130~140 at normal, Li has to take medication to control his heart rate and has been advised not to do any sort of exercise. Addressing the reason behind his visibly heavier frame, he had quipped: "I'm fat. I don't have the time to lose it. It's a fact!"

While he confirmed that he had recovered from the illness in 2016, it seems that his long career as a martial artist and stuntman had been detrimental to his health. Quoting his doctor at the time, he said that he was told he could 'either continue making [action] films or spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.' Furthermore, injuries he had sustained in his legs and spine had limited his movements and had left him unable to stand for long periods without hunching.

Actor Jet Li  (Source: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Li was quoted as saying: "I’m just a regular guy. I’m not Wong Fei-hung. I’m not Huo Yuanjia [kung fu heroes he has portrayed on film]. I’m just like you."

He seems to have taken his doctor's advice to heart and has since largely stayed away from the spotlight, instead focusing his attention and energy on his charity work. Li has been the 'philanthropic ambassador' of the Red Cross Society of China since 2006 and formed his own non-profit foundation called 'The One Foundation' in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami.

Reactions from social media have varied. Many have expressed their shock, with one writing: "His kung fu is real and his films were great. Pity he’s suffering from this illness," and another posting: "He was so active before and now he looks like an old man."

Others have questioned the authenticity of the photo. While hyperthyroidism does speed up metabolic processes and aging, this YouTube video from December 2017 indicates that, while bald, he's not as frail as he was made out to be, and that the picture going viral was possibly taken at a poor angle and bad lighting.